An American planetarium has revealed it is phasing out its 42-year-old projector to make way for a new digital system.

The two-tonne Zeiss Model VI Star Projector at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Centre
in North Carolina will be decommissioned in September after being replaced by a digital projection system.

The Zeiss was designed for 25 years of use, and when planetarium director Todd Boyette arrived in 2006, the projector was already 37 years old.

Boyette said the planetarium needed a modern system because if the Zeiss broke it would be too difficult to fix.

“There was no choice,” he said. “The Zeiss had to be replaced.”

The $1.5 million (£911,000) transition to the digital system, which was funded by GlaxoSmithKline, was completed in January 2010 and the Zeiss projector has been gradually phased out since then.

It is now only used for showing programmes for school children. The last show in the GlaxoSmithKline Fulldome theatre will be May 6.

Chief technician Steve Nichol has been working on the Zeiss projector since he joined the planetarium staff 26 years ago.

“That’s been part of my driving force, personally, to make sure it just continued working until we decided that it was time to disconnect the power,” he said.

“Whenever you hear anyone in there, whether they’re kids or they’re adults, just take a deep sigh or exclamation whenever they see that starry night, that’s a reward."