StarLab FAQ


Capacity will vary with the size and maturity of students. The Standard dome has a recommended capacity of 27 people, the Giant dome has a recommended capacity of 56 people. The Digital Domes range from 15 to over 100 students.

StarLab should always be set up in an open space such as a cafeteria, gym, multipurpose room or large classroom. The height of the Standard dome is 10.5 feet while the Giant dome is 13.5 feet. You should allow at least 6 inches above the dome for a ceiling with fluorescent lighting and 12 inches above the dome for a ceiling with incandescent lighting. The Standard dome requires a room with a minimum of 21 x 21 feet; the Giant dome requires a room with a minimum of 27 x 27 feet. There should always be a clear path out of the StarLab and it should not block any exits. Although the fabric is flame resistant, StarLab should never be set up near an open flame, incandescent lighting, radiators, space heaters or other heat sources.

About 15 minutes after you bring the boxes in you will be able to say “please come in” to the students. At the end of the day, if you can leave the planetarium in place on the floor, then only about 5 minutes is needed for the dome to deflate. If you are putting it away, then about 15 minutes to collapse the dome and stow everything back in the duffel bag and cases.

You enter through the larger of the two tubes connected to the dome. The kids love to crawl in but anyone can get in by merely bending over and walking through the entrance tunnel.

The heaviest box is the one holding the projector: about 40 lbs which includes the Astronomy and More notebook. The dome weighs about 45 lbs. The fan and case weigh about 22 lbs.

Because of its unique design, the StarLab can accommodate visitors who are restricted to wheelchairs, have walkers or are otherwise physically challenged. Instead of having these individuals use the entrance tunnel, they can enter and exit the planetarium by going in and out under the edge of the dome. To do this, you will need a second person to assist you. Individuals who are physically challenged should be brought into the dome before the rest of the visitors. Once the entire group has been seated, back the wheelchair into the opening of the entrance tunnel. In this way, they will be able to see everything without blocking the view of other visitors. (We only recommend this in this particular situation.) When the program is over, move the wheelchair out of the tunnel and place it next to the projector.


We feel that the Digital StarLab gives the greatest digital planetarium experience for the money.  Our Classic StarLab has been manufactured for over 30 years, and we are the inventors of the portable planetarium.  Our main focus is education, and we know what educators need in a product and how to supply it to them.

Our software package, Starry Night Small Dome, is world’s better (no pun intended) than the competition, and is only available with purchase of a Digital StarLab.  Our software includes millions of stars, plenty of built-in functions and scripts, the ability to customize your own shows, the ability to play full-dome movies, and most importantly, allows student created content with Starry Night Middle School, High School, or College to be “played” inside the dome using Starry Night Small Dome.  No other portable digital planetarium can boast this excellent and professional software.  Each purchase of a Digital StarLab includes three licenses of Starry Night Small Dome, allowing the educator to keep one on the laptop that powers the Digital StarLab, one as a spare, and one to “play around with” when not at the dome.

Digital StarLab offers a top-quality 1200 pixel DLP projector with a generous contrast ratio. Our fisheye lens offers a full 180 degree field of view, without distorted or “hot dog” stars that can be seen on some competitor’s models near the horizon.  We offer lifetime free technical support and training packages directly from the developers of the Starry Night software program for advanced techniques.

Several new curriculum packages are currently in development and will soon be available for Digital StarLab customers.

Please make sure you see systems you are considering in person before making a purchase decision.  Like most things, with a digital planetarium you get what you pay for.  Look for a company that has been around many years, so that when you need service in later years, they will still be there to support you.  Make sure the system you have selected uses high quality components (such as the projector and lens), and does not simply try to lead with the lowest price.  The planetarium must also be easy to use and provide good teaching value for the students.

Like so many things in life, the answer is yes, but.  Among fisheye lens projectors, the greater the number of pixels, generally the clearer the image.  However, projector quality also plays a role in this answer.  A lower quality projector likely will not have the same optical components and focusing ability, so simply because the number of pixels is the same or better does not necessarily mean that the image will be noticeably better.  Generally speaking, a projector using a fisheye lens (i.e. the Digital StarLab) will use the vertical number of pixels (i.e. 1080 or 1200) as the pixels that are actually displayed.

You may have heard that all that matters in a planetarium is the number or projected pixels, and that one should look for the lowest price per pixel. All other things being equal, more pixels are good. However, a digital planetarium is much more than the image processor. Prisms, lenses, light sources, and the main fish eye lens are equally important. A digital planetarium works as a whole, not as a sum of its components. Every part of the Digital StarLab has been designed to work perfectly with the other parts.

A remote control interface has advantages and disadvantages.  While it may seem extremely convenient when seeing a digital planetarium for the first time to use a remote control, be aware that by using a remote control, and having the remote control as your only means of controlling the unit, you are sacrificing some of the flexibility that made you consider a digital planetarium in the first place.  For instance, you are only able to load a limited number of scripts into the interface.  If a student has a in-depth or follow-up question that you did not plan in advance to answer, you may have some difficulty loading the appropriate image or script in a timely fashion.  A laptop computer gives you full access to everything that is being displayed at all times, and you can make changes to your program as needed on the fly.

Yes!  Digital StarLab fully supports full-dome movies from a variety of suppliers.  Just be sure to mention that you are purchasing the movie for Digital StarLab when ordering.  Full dome movies are specially formatted to play with little to no distortion in the entire dome.

The Digital StarLab uses a special dome with a black exterior and a light gray interior.  A fabric dome tends to work much better for digital projection systems than our Classic StarLab dome.  The Digital StarLab dome has an “airlock” which helps keep the dome darker as people enter and exit.  This “airlock” also helps the dome inflated as students are entering and exiting at the beginning and ending of a show.  Some of the competitor’s domes simply have a zipper set into the dome itself.  This method of entry and egress tends to allow much more light into the dome and the dome tends to collapse upon itself when large numbers of people enter or leave the dome, which can be a safety hazard.

We recommend domes of up to 7 meters in diameter.  The most common size that is purchased is 5 meters (16 feet).

The StarLab dome system comes with a native 4k projector, which enables you to bring all your visuals to life in stunning detail. Your students will experience the difference with:

– Unparalleled Resolution: Four times the resolution of FHD.

– High Picture Brightness: 5500 Lumen High Brightness gives you unmatched clarity.

– Hassle-free setup: It’s portable and plugs right in.


The Classic StarLab System is a teaching aid geared toward astronomy. In brief, it is composed of a dome made out of opaque vinyl, and a projector, which displays images on the inside of the dome. The projector produces bright light, which is fully adjustable by the user.

The images are produced using StarLab cylinders, which are made out of film. The film used is entirely opaque, except for the portions where the images are. In this way, all the light from the projector is blocked except what is needed to create images. A major advantage of the film is that it affords nearly infinite contrast ratios.

Classic StarLab cylinders are made of film, which afford near infinite contrast ratios. This is because film can be entirely transparent and entirely opaque, making the difference between the two striking. Each cylinder is assembled by hand, colored as necessary, and supported by sturdy steel rings. On the base plate of our projectors are four strong magnets, which attract the steel rings, holding the cylinder in place.

As an additional tool, curriculum guides are available, free of charge, for each cylinder. These provide valuable information on the topic, sample lesson plans, and links to additional sources of information.