Planetarium Open House - Thank you!

• James Hedberg

The Openhouse and more

Last week we had two events in the planetarium that served to informally launch the new digital projection system and start the process of having regular shows in the space. On Thursday, the 18th, we hosted a group of astrobiology students from Laguardia Community College and their instructor, Prof Josh Tan of LCC. Prof Tan gave a stunning tour of some of the interesting locations on Mars. On Monday, the 22nd, we had an all day Open House with 5 separate shows – three live tours of the cosmos and two full dome movie viewings. Both events were delightful and fulfilled their intended functions: to a) let people know about the room and its potential, and b) to work out many of the little hiccups and kinks that are bound to crop up when doing public events in the planetarium (and of course to show the denizens of our light polluted city the beauty of the cosmos!)

mars surface
View of HiRISE data in the Noctis Labyrinthus region.

The Space shows on Monday started off by visiting the CCNY campus, then taking off and examining the view of earth from the height off the International Space Station (~250 miles). The we went and explored the moon, making a stop at Copernicus Crater. Mars was also on the itinerary. We took in the vistas from a pit in the Noctis Labyrinthus region of Mariner Valley (while listening to some Bowie of course). After Mars, we would request some input from the audience about where to head next. Usually we’d end up at Saturn or Jupiter. Then, after looking at the solar system as a whole, we took an exceedingly quick trip to the intergalactic regions and marveled at the splendor of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey results. They are quite memorable.

Based on the engagement during the shows and from the perspective of the operators, we can happily say we are ready to start taking regular trips to the Moon, Mars, Mercury, and beyond - all from the comfort of the Marshak Building. No need for space visas or pressure suits, just a CUNY ID and a sweater (there is still no heating in the room as of this writing - it’s on the todo list). Also we hope to improve the seating in the future and perhaps even get some new paint on the dome and walls. The new digital system is capable of doing just about anything the Hayden Planetarium can do - minus a few pixels. Now just need a large collection of eager, adventurous, and curious folks to descend into the basement and and take a trip. If only we happened to be at a place populated with thousands of such people - oh wait - we are! City College: Come on down and travel the stars!

Thanks to all who could make it to these events. Hopefully you had as much fun as I did.