For the month of November, the Romney Planetarium, located in the George S. Romney building, has chosen “Stars of the Pharaohs” as the movie that will show every Thursday night at 6:30 p.m., said Brian Tonks, a physics faculty member who teaches astronomy at BYU-Idaho.
Tonks said that “Stars of the Pharaohs” links what archeology has found out about the Egyptians and their knowledge of the stars to what we know about the stars.
“It connects what the ancient Egyptians knew about the stars to their legends and to their hierarchal system of government that they had,” Tonks said.
Tonks said that the movie gives an over view of the Egyptian creation story. He said that it does an excellent job of explaining where some of the more popular Egyptian gods came from.
“Like most ancient civilizations, the ancient Egyptians had a creation story,” Tonks said. “Their creation story involved a lot of different gods. They were a polytheistic society, who believed in many, many gods, and those gods performed different functions in that society. They had a hierarchy, some gods were higher than other gods and so forth.”
Tonks said the Romney Planetarium was built in 1963, the same time as the Romney building itself. He said the Romney Planetarium had changed a lot since he first came to BYU-I. He said what had changed the most was the technology, and he said the production is different than when he first came to BYU-I.
Tonks said he was asked to work in the Romney Planetarium in 1993, when BYU-I was still Ricks College. Tonks said his degree in planetary science makes him one of the “astronomy guys” on campus.
“The planetarium director brought me in to working in the planetarium,” Tonks said. “That was back before it was computerized, back when you had to be an eight armed paper hanger to actually work in there.”
Tonks said the Romney Planetarium was set up with two different consoles which each had switches controlling either a special effects projector or the star globe.
“Basically, we had 50 special effects projectors, and every one of them had their own individual switch that you had to turn on and turn off,” Tonks said. “All of the slides that are now depicted via digital imagery, that was all done by slides and special effects projectors.”
Tonks said running one of the older shows was a full-on production.
“We had four different banks of slides we could use in a show,” Tonks said. “Then we had the main star globe that actually projected the stars up on the dome and the constellations and where the horizons are and the various lines, like the celestial equator, and so forth. That part of it was actually pretty well marked and labeled, but all the extra special effects projectors and slide projectors and so forth had their own switches.”
Tonks said that because the shows had to be run by hand, each production had its own unique touch.
“It was tough,” Tonks said. “The show that I learned first was probably the most difficult of the shows we had at the time. It took me probably 20-25 hours of practice before I was ready to give it the first time.”
Tonks said the production takes effort and timing. He saidthat in order to put on a show, he had to memorize the narration so he could time the program and know when to use either a slide or turn on a special effects projector. Tonks said that sometimes, he would even do both simultaneously.
Tonks said he invites everyone to attend the planetarium show, “Stars of the Pharaohs”, because it is worthwhile, educational and one of the shows he especially likes.