Boston Blog

Forget the moon. Give your valentine an exoplanet at the new Boston planetarium

Facebooky college types outnumbered the squirmy toddlers at Friday night’s preview of the refurbished Boston Museum of Science planetarium. The politicians and benefactors from the previous night’s gala had cleared out. So, it was time to fire up the new Zeiss Starmaster projector and show off the $9 million renovation to those who clicked the “like” button on the planetarium’s Facebook page

new plaent.jpgMIT astrophysicist and author of the mesmerizing Einstein’s Dreams, worked with the staff on the script. Readers of the book will recognize how Lightman helps bring both clarity and heft to the lay description of exoplanets.

new planet two.jpg

From the MOS press release:

Twenty years ago, finding planets outside our solar system was science fiction," says Planetarium show producer, Dani LeBlanc, who led the team creating the Museum’s 30-minute show. But in 1995 scientists discovered 51 Pegasi, the first planet orbiting a star like our Sun. By the end of 2010 scientists knew of over 500 of these so-called “exoplanets.” NASA’s historic announcement in early February that its Kepler telescope had discovered 1,235 planet candidates now means the number of confirmed exoplanets could more than double.

Listen at WBUR:

There’s only one other like it in the country. Davis admits the previous projectors were so old he couldn’t find replacement parts. But now, he exclaimed, “We have the best sky in Boston!”

And it is stunning. Easy to get lost in. Thousands of stars twinkled before our eyes.

Next Davis sat down at a 10-foot-wide control console and fired up the DigitalSky system and database. It holds an enormous amount of astronomical information, so it took a second to get going.

“Someone else was flying this before,” Davis joked. But he was half-serious. Then he loaded up the “universe data set” so, he said, “we can take a quick trip jaunt to the moon.”

Looking up we lifted off our planet and rose rapidly into space. From a Globe review:

"Undiscovered Worlds: The Search Beyond Our Sun,‘’ the new attraction at the Museum of Science’s Charles Hayden Planetarium, is more multimedia show than movie, and thankfully it’s a far cry from a Pink Floyd laser show. This bling-filled, whizz-bang spectacle combines voice-over, music, sound effects, and computer graphics, using high-def video projection, fiber optics, and digital acoustic technology — all powered by that brand spanking new star simulator called the Zeiss Starmaster.

From the Globe: A Q&A Danielle Khoury LeBlanc, who created the new show:

20110125Zeissandaudience.jpg Our Zeiss projector was a 40-year-old machine. It ran like a German tank. It still did the job, but it was quirky. The moon didn’t phase the way it was supposed to. We also had about 70 slide projectors. Nobody uses slide projectors anymore. We saw what was going on in the field, and it was time for us to do the same.

Photos courtesy of the MOS.

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