Digital planetarium show created by Notre Dame faculty on exhibit at Astana World’s Fair

By Meg Mirshak

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A digital planetarium show created by University of Notre Dame faculty and the director of the university’s digital visualization theater is on exhibit at the World’s Fair in Astana, Kazakhstan. The show is a stunning visual tour of the universe combined with a contemplative, theological reflection on light, energy and care of God’s creation.


Cardinal Peter K. A. Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, invited Notre Dame to participate in the Holy See’s pavilion at Astana’s EXPO 2017. The digital planetarium is one component of the Vatican’s pavilion titled “Energy for the Common Good: Caring for our Common Home.”


Sponsored by the McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame in partnership with the Vatican, “Let There Be Light” was created specifically for EXPO 2017 which explores the theme of energy for the future. The 10-minute planetarium show takes visitors on a journey through darkness, the creation of light, radiation of the Big Bang, and finally to our galaxy, solar system, and Earth.


"The problem and promise of energy—its use and its future—brings us face-to-face with some of the deepest questions of our lives,” said John Cavadini, McGrath-Cavadini Director of the McGrath Institute. “Whatever we create always follows what we have received, and to recognize that about energy suggests we have a responsibility to preserve these gifts for others.”


The show was created by Leonard DeLorenzo, theology professor and McGrath Institute program director; Keith Davis, director of Notre Dame’s digital visualization theater; and Philip Sakimoto, director of the Program in Academic Excellence in Notre Dame’s First Year of Studies. Sakimoto worked nearly 15 years for NASA serving part of that tenure as program manager and acting director of the NASA Space Science Education and Public Outreach Program.


“Let There Be Light” is adapted from an hour-long presentation titled “All Creation Gives Praise” that has been viewed by thousands at Notre Dame since it was developed by DeLorenzo and Sakimoto a decade ago. The show will be shown continuously in a portable planetarium that seats about 25 people. During the three-month exhibit, thousands are expected to view “Let There Be Light.” The theological reflection is translated into Russian, Kazakh and Italian.


EXPO 2017 began June 10 and continues through September 10. It is the first World’s Fair in Central Asia.


Contact: Brett Robinson, director of communications, McGrath Institute for Church Life, 574-631-6109,


The McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame partners with Catholic dioceses, parishes and schools to address pastoral challenges with theological depth and rigor. By connecting the Catholic intellectual life at Notre Dame to the life of the Church, the McGrath Institute for Church Life forms faithful Catholic leaders for service to the Church and the world. Visit