As a Science and Engineering Ambassador I was invited along to see a preview of the new Planetarium that is opening at Intech next month. This will be the largest digital planetarium in the UK. I have to say I think it was pretty cool!
I’ve been in the dome before, as this is also used as a lecture theatre. We were first given a demonstration of one of the sessions that will be run for schools in the planetarium, by a very enthusiastic presenter. This was aimed at key-stage 2 children, and covered subject likes like the orbit of the earth, the moon, constellations, the planets, nebulae, galaxies, and the structure of the universe. There were some very cool 3d graphics involved in the presentation, with actual photographs of objects as often as possible.
When the planetarium isn’t being used for schools visits the a pre-recorded show about black holes narrated by Liam Neeson will be shown. The brief trailer suggested this will be a dramatic show!
The final part of the preview was probably the most interesting from a technology point of view. Some techie guys from the company that make the software did a demo of the system, and a bit of an explanation about what they can do. This involved some live-flying. Basically the software has access to a live stream of data from NASA and therefore you can project anything from the earth, the solar system right out to the edges of the known universe. All using an X-Box controller, or a mouse if you want a smoother ride. This was extremely cool, and gave a really good view of the scale of astronomical objects, and a demo of some really very clever maths. Another cool feature is the ability to display environmental and geographical data for the Earth. And the 3D Earth you can see the data on is very neat.
I lost count of the number of times I said ‘wow’ and ‘cool’ during the whole thing! I have to admit to feeling a little bit of motion sickness after the live-flying experience though!