The “playdate” in the title actually doesn’t refer to my little astronomonsters today, but to me. I spent the day in the planetarium today helping to install a new Elumenati projector with Uniview software. Apparently, we are the 100th installation of Uniview. Yay, us!
A highlight of the day was when I got to fly through the Universe like this! The Uniview software allows the user to fly through the solar system and orbit planets, and then to zoom out of the solar system, out of the Milky Way Galaxy, and out of the known universe. It is really quite amazing, and it does so much more than this, too. I am excited about the possibilities for astronomy education with this tool in the planetarium.
We will also be able to show full-dome video productions now, too. While this is all wonderful and exciting, this is not to say that a planetarium without full-dome and Uniview is not exciting. I have yet to meet a planetarium I didn’t like. Prior to this upgrade, the star of our shows (pardon the pun) was a Spitz 512 star projector, and we would make use of slide projectors, laser disc and video with a square-screen digital projector, and other equipment, like an orrery (a mechanical model of the solar system). We will continue to use all of this despite the shiny, new toys–I mean, tools.
One of my favorite things about being a planetarium educator is to hear the children exclaim, “Wow!” as they come in and see the planetarium. Planetariums are powerful tools to interest children in astronomy and science, even without the latest shinies. As long as the star projector shines stars, even in the middle of a cloudy day, you should have a good time. To help you find a planetarium near you, the International Planetarium Society has Planetarium Web Site Index with links to planetariums’ web sites and email addresses, sorted by country and city. Have fun arranging your own planetarium playdate!