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Up, Up, and Away

Off Campus | February 28, 2011

Looking for a fun, fast, and easy trip into Boston? Check out the Science Museum’s new Charles Hayden Planetarium. After being closed for a year in order to accommodate a nine million dollar renovation, the planetarium reopened again this month.

Every aspect of the theater was upgraded from its original 1958 form in order to produce a superior viewing experience. The new theater, which is billed as the most technologically advanced digital theater in New England, boasts a state of the art speaker system, a projector that can display images sharper than the human eye can see, and an air conditioner so quiet that the theater can accurately replicate the silence of outer space.

The new Zeiss Starmaster projector can display over 9,000 stars at a time. In fact the projector’s resolution is so high that in order to fully appreciate its ability you would need to pull out your binoculars. While the naked human eye might only see one star, the aided eye would see hundreds of starts, much like taking a telescope to a clear nights’ sky.

Upon first entering the darkened theater, the dim purple lights begin to set the magical mood for the impending journey. The seats form concentric circles around the liberty-bell-sized projector in the center of the room. Above, a 60-foot dome-shaped screen appears to be an endless column into the sky. Super-reclined seats await eager viewers, positioning them into lounged posture and readying them for blast-off. Spectators will travel faster than the speed of light through outer space, cruising by planets, suns, and galaxies.

The planetarium can show preprogrammed spectacles such as its current feature, Undiscovered Worlds: The Search Beyond Our Sun. This presentation, which runs for about 20 minutes, features the newest and most advanced facts, data, and statistics about exoplanets (planets outside the solar system). It tours a four-planet solar system about 20 light years away, sharing information about potentially habitable exoplanets. The demonstration shares revolutionary discoveries, leaving viewers enlightened, yet wanting to know more.

As more planets and starts are found, the existing shows can be amended. Moreover, the state-of-the-art software running the planetarium allows the museum to show anything the human mind can dream up. In fact, the system can create and display a rendering of what any point within our solar system would look like from any other point in the solar system. It can even do so from any point in time between 8011 B.C.E and 12,011, an impressive 20, 000-year range. This allows ‘live’ demonstrations to be accomplished where audience members can interact with the system and a customized spectacle can be achieved.

The theater can also be used for non-space travel adventures, allowing audiences to travel through the human body or alongside dolphins in the depths of the ocean. Moreover, it will host performances where audience members can choose the music to accompany light shows. Starting in the spring the planetarium will feature musical performances accompanied by star and laser shows above.

To get the most out of your experience, be sure to see a show on a clear Friday night between March 3th and November 18th. During these dates you will also have free access to the museum’s Gilliand Observatory, where you can look through the computer-controlled telescope (between 8:30 and 10pm).

So take a trip on the green line to the Science Park stop and start your journey. Let the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Boston Science Museum entertain, educate and impress you. Tickets cost $10 for a planetarium show, and $26 for a planetarium show plus entry to the science museum. Tickets available online at www.mos.org or at the Museum of Science, 1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114.