The Pointer

From 1968 to 1970, the PPA journal/newsletter was called The Pointer.

The Pointer back Issues are listed below (from the PPA Pointer Google Drive folder):

Freshly scanned editions of The Pointer will be added periodically to this folder during 2022 in memory of Michael Bennett. Check this page to see more installments of these historic and informative documents.

You may see content summaries of each issue below:
(Sept 1968, Dec 1968, Mar 1969, Jun 1969)

Seventh edition of The Pointer, March, 1970, includes:

  • The claim by new editor Charles F. Hagar that it is "twice as interesting, twice as informative, and...twice as thick!" The twice-ness is because this issue is a joint publication between Pacific Planetarium Association and the Planetarium Association of Canada.

  • A letter by R. D. Risser of the Morrison planetarium and an article by David A. Rodger of the H. R. Macmillan Planetarium that respond to last issue's article about the future of planetariums. In contrast to Dennis Gallagher of the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, the author of that article, they take an optimistic view of the traditional role of a planetarium as compared to other entertainment-oriented media.

  • A short description of the upcoming tours by NASA of 15 Moon rocks collected on the Apollo 11 mission.

  • An article by Dick Norton of the Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium describing a "general" special effects projector. The article describes in detail how mechanical slides (slides with motors built in!) and filter wheels can make effects such as orbiting binary stars, variable stars, and UFOs.

  • An article by George Love, science editor for Planetariums Unlimited, on the importance of a high degree of accuracy in star-fields movements in planetarium projectors.

  • An article by Mark Levine of the Brooklyn Children's Museum about The Muse Planetarium, describing the technology, programming, and staff of the facility. He describes their programs as 'documentary type' rather than 'lecture.'

  • An argument in favor of a North American planetarium publication by Larry A. Gilchrist of the Calgary Centennial Planetarium, and editor of The Planetarium Journal, a publication of Planetarium Association of Canada.

  • A description of the $250,000 ZEISS Mark VI projector newly installed at the Adler Planetarium.

  • "Chuckles from the Console" Examples of planetarium humor.

  • And of course, vintage advertisements! How about the Meteor projector from Talent, Inc., or the 12-projector system from Sky-Skan that can display 8 different horizons? Minolta, as usual, has a very artistic ad.

Quiz questions:

1. The Muse Planetarium in Brooklyn, NY, mentioned above, had a GOTO Model Mercury projector. What west-coast planetarium had a GOTO Model Mercury?

2. Since question 1 was a very niche question, try this: Did a Moon rock visit a planetarium or museum near you in 1970? Were you around to see it? Did you see it?

Sixth edition of The Pointer, December, 1969, includes:

  • An article by Dennis Gallagher (Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, Winnipeg) that continues the discussion of education vs. entertainment from the last issue. It includes the production process for a Moon-landing program with effects meant to compete with what viewers might see in movies and television.

  • A description by Robert Searls of how they project a live image of the Sun directly onto the planetarium dome at Diablo Valley College's Astro-Science Laboratory. It includes photos of a partial solar eclipse as observed inside the dome.

  • A short discussion by Dr. Billy A. Smith (Chabot College) about rheostats vs. Silicon Controlled Rectifier units. Circuit diagram included.

  • A message from PPA president Lee Bonneau about the resurrection of the PPA Annual Honors Award, and an invitation to apply. Will the winners be announced in a future issue of The Pointer?

  • A run-down of the Fall Meeting of the PPA Northern Region meeting at the Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium in Reno. It featured a demonstration of a full-dome movie projector which was installed to display all-sky movies of thunderstorms. (One presumes that is the rationale for the term "Atmospherium.") The meeting also featured a serendipitous UFO which became a probable IFO with the help of a telescope.

  • A "What's Going On" column with an item announcing that Charles Hagar would succeed Michael Bennett as editor of The Pointer. Other items include staff changes in other planetaria, and an announcement about a combination harpsichord/Moog synthesizer concert at the Morrison Planetarium.

  • A Description by Ashley McDermott (College of the Desert, Coachella Valley) of what it is like to be director of a planetarium that does not seem to be able to get itself built.

  • A cartoon by Norman Dean of "The Ideal Planetarium Man."

  • And of course, vintage advertisements! Sky-Skan introduces a precursor of their SPICE automation, called Special Effects Control System, with the slogan, "Why not put SECS into your planetarium?"

Quiz question: What's a coelostat?

Fifth edition of The Pointer, September, 1969, includes:

  • A cover showing a portion of A Philosopher Giving a Lecture at the Orrery by 18th century painter Joseph Wright. The rendering in black and white gives it an even more 'noir' quality than the original.

  • The usual appeal for membership and membership dues. Adjusted for inflation, the current rate is still a real deal!

  • A lengthy and interesting description by Michael Bennett of an annual meeting of the Planetarium Society of Canada. It contains a further description of the modern features of the MacMillan Planetarium, which was also featured in the Winter, 1968 edition of The Pointer. It goes on to discuss the role of planetariums in education, issues of sound and light under the dome, advances in the field of cosmology, hemispherical movie making, a new Jupiter projector, the first optical observation of a pulsar, and much more.

  • In the same article as above, but worth its own bullet point, is a description by Angus McKay, of both Boeing and Pacific Science Center, of a "radically new kind of planetarium-type device, utilizing a computer controlled laser."

  • News about new and upgraded planetariums at De Anza College in Cupertino, CA, and Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA, as well as a planetarium under construction on Long Island, NY.

  • A run-down of the Fall Meeting of PPA at Mt. San Antonio College, in Walnut, CA. It featured footage from Apollo 11, and a discussion of cosmology and the geometry of the Universe. Excerpt: "...something really big happened to the universe about ten billion years ago." There was also a demonstration of film projected onto a projection of a slide of a window (presumably a spacecraft window) which was deemed an inventive way to solve the problem of the film frame on the dome.

  • A "What's Going On" column about new staff in various western planetaria.

  • And of course, vintage advertisements --The list of sponsors grows! Among them are products from Celestron and Optica, a "rising sun projector" from Talent, Inc., a portable (not inflatable) dome and projector from Planetariums Unlimited, the "Rota-Sky One" slide projector from Sky-Skan, and even a harpsichord concert at the Morrison Planetarium.

As The Pointer grows, so does this summary!

Quiz question: Do you think the picture on the cover of this issue is a little bit creepy? What other painting by the same artist is much worse? (See first bullet point above and do an Internet search for the answer.)

Fourth edition of The Pointer, June, 1969, includes:

  • A message from the PPA president that notes the one-year anniversary of The Pointer, along with a bare-faced appeal for members and membership dues.

  • An extended article by Charles F. Hagar, guest lecturer at the Morrison Planetarium, on the history of Planetariums, with particular emphasis on the roles of education and entertainment in planetarium programming. It includes nice historical photos.

  • An appendix to the above article that lists all the planetarium manufacturers and distributors, the planetarium models with the number of stars they project, and the number of installations for each model in North America and the world.

  • PPA News with reports from three different meetings, the Southern and Northern Regions of PPA, and the Junior College Workshop in Astronomy. Also some comments on the meeting of the American Associations of Museums at the Morrison Planetarium at which the creation of a national planetarium association was discussed.

  • And of course, vintage advertisements -- an even bigger selection than in the third edition! Sponsors are taking note of this publication.

In contrast to the second edition of The Pointer, Ian McLennan is mentioned only twice, and in the same article. There is, however, a possible image of him in a different article. Perhaps there will be more "Ian-spotting" in future editions.

The Apollo program got only one mention. Can we expect more in the edition for Autumn, 1969?

Quiz-questions: One meeting report mentions "...a Maxwell House can, Charley Bomgren's paper bearing, a 605 bulb, and a little flat black..."

  1. Do you or did you ever use a 605 bulb in a special effects projector? What are its characteristics that make it so useful?

  2. What the heck is Charley Bomgren's paper bearing?

Third edition of The Pointer, March, 1969, includes:

  • A letter from the W.A. Gayle Space Transit Planetarium in Montgomery, Alabama, about a "New Concept in Planetarium Programming" -- an organ concert under the stars.

  • An article by Dr. Arthur Young, of San Diego State College, about quantitative measurements and demonstrations in the planetarium. It includes discussions about determining synodic and sidereal periods of planets, time-exposure photography to investigate retrograde motion, celestial navigation, and the analemma and timekeeping.

  • PPA news, including a review of the Winter PPA meeting which included a lively discussion about 'traditionalism' in presentations, and a tour of the impressive array of special effects projectors at the Schlesinger Planetarium at Citrus College, Azusa.

  • An editorial about the lack of interest in the PPA Annual Honors Awards, and a plea for planetarians to develop their creative programming efforts so that Award can honor them.

  • An article by James R. Whitcomb, director of the Rosicrucian Planetarium in San Jose, about the planetarium's past and present, including a detailed description of its first star projector, of unusual design, built in the 1930s.

  • And of course, vintage advertisements -- a bigger selection than in the first two editions! The Minolta ad on page 3 is a fine artistic mash-up of a diagram by Descartes, a southern star map, and a planetarium.

What were you doing in the spring of 1969? Think of that as you read and enjoy.

Second edition of The Pointer, December, 1968, includes:

  • A description of a new (as of 1968) planetarium in Vancouver, Canada. In it Dave Rogers, the first of the planetarium's directors, details the technology used in the facility, which was advanced for its time. All for $1.5 million.

  • An article by O. Richard Norton (Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium) about the optics of projection systems for those who need to build special-purpose projectors.

  • A memorial announcement for Albert S. Green, principal designer of the old, one-of-a-kind Morrison Planetarium projector.

  • PPA news, including a review of the Fall PPA meeting which included presentations about live, televised telescope images projected in the dome, and a random access slide projector.

  • An invitation to join the PPA for the annual membership fee of $6. (That's almost $50 in 2022 dollars. Makes the current annual fee of $15 seem like quite a deal!)

  • An article about the GLPA/MAPS meeting in Rochester by Gerome B. DeGraff. The meeting included a talk by Isaac Asimov and a presentation by Eastman-Kodak about astrophotography.

  • And of course, vintage advertisements.

You could call this the "Ian McLennan Edition" as he is mentioned in three separate articles. Still at it, Ian?

Quiz question: The cover of this edition shows an outside-view of "Vancouver's newest planetarium." What U.S. planetarium has very similar architecture?

First edition of The Pointer, September, 1968, includes:

  • Reflections on starting a new publication, The Pointer, for planetarians by Michael Bennett,

  • Announcement of the establishment of PPA Awards,

  • Ten tips for effective presentation (still relevant) by George W. Bunton,

  • Notes on building an aurora projector (not digital, of course) by Bob Risser,

  • News and announcements from the PPA regions of 1968,

  • Vintage advertisements,

  • An invitation to join the PPA for the annual membership fee of $6. (That's almost $50 in 2022 dollars. Makes the current annual fee of $15 seem like quite a deal!)