Star-maker at work

©Anna Schroll

Did You Know…

…that Stars Are Made By Hand At ZEISS?

There really is the position of “star-maker” at the high-tech company. Despite the romantic connotations this title evokes, the profession is based on very sound training – as a precision optics engineer. But how and why are stars actually made?

A star-maker is employed in the Planetariums division. To clarify a common source of confusion: in a planetarium, visitors view an artificial night sky, whereas in an observatory, they can observe real celestial objects.

At the heart of a planetarium is a special projector that projects the starry sky onto the interior surface of a hemispherical dome. Walther Bauersfeld introduced the first projection planetarium made by ZEISS in 1923. Today, the world’s largest planetarium – with a dome 35 meters in diameter – is located in Nagoya, Japan.

Regardless of all the technology, however, there would be no modern projection planetarium if it were not for the craftsmanship of the star-maker. A ZEISS planetarium projector is an optomechanical device containing either 12 or 32 fixed-star projectors, depending on the model. Inside this device, there are round disks with holes designed to recreate a detailed and astronomically accurate replica of the night sky. Each hole is illuminated by a single glass fiber. Using a microscope, a total of 9,100 glass fibers are individually “threaded” through holes to create the planetarium projector’s 9,100 stars – the number of stars that the human eye can see under ideal viewing conditions. This work requires patience, perseverance, and a steady hand. After all, each one of these round disks with a diameter of just five centimeters has to hold up to 900 stars.

Once the threading process is complete, the hand-made fixed-star projectors are mounted and aligned inside the planetarium projector. Millions of planetarium visitors all over the world are amazed by the brilliant and natural-looking starry skies projected on the domes over their heads, yet they are unaware that they mainly have the craftsmanship of the star-maker at ZEISS in Jena to thank for the delightful experience!


27 November 2012