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Planetariums: History, Purpose, Notable Planetariums, Current Programs running today

written by: sdoy79•edited by: RC Davison•updated: 5/7/2009

A planetarium is defined as a device that can model the solar system or other stars and galaxies that we can observe in our universe. A planetarium is used as an entertainment and educational device.

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    Images That are Used For Planeterium Shows

    Hubble Image of Distant GalaxyNASA Image of our Sun with Solar Storms
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    History of Planetariums

    Archimedes, a Greek inventor, engineer, mathematician, astronomer, and physicist is credited with inventing the first known planetarium. The exact date of his invention is unknown but he lived from 287 BC-212 BC. His device could model and predict the movements of the visible planets, moon, and sun in our solar system. Planetariums evolved from mechanical devices showing our solar system to theatres with light bulbs accounting for stars in the early 1900’s. A primitive projection machine was built by Walther Bauersfeld on the suggestion from a German astronomer by the name of Max Wolf. Walther Bauersfeld constructed this new machine while working at the Zeiss factory. The device built was an optical projector. It was located in the center of a room and projected images of the correct movements of planets and stars on a white background of a hemisphere at the top of the theatre. The Zeiss could project 4900 stars and show the positions from the night sky only from the perspective of Germany. The first planetarium projection show occurred in 1923 on the top of Zeiss works building.

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    Image of Mechanical Planetarium and Projector Planeterium

    Franeker PlanetariumZeiss Mark I 1923 Planetaruim Projector
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    Purpose of Planetariums

    The purpose of a planetarium is to provide entertaining educational shows in a theatrical atmosphere. A planetarium shows us movement of stars, galaxies, planets, and our sun from Earth’s perspective. The planetarium domes we are familiar with can also show us accurate motion of the sky from any latitude and at any place in time: past, present, and future.

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    Notable Planetariums

    One of the oldest Planetariums

    Royal Observatory of Belgium: May be the only Planetarium still using an original Zeiss II Planetarium Projector and claims to be one of the oldest planetariums in the world.

    Largest Planetarium

    The Science Center of Nagoya Japan Planetarium due to complete in 2011: The Science Center is constructing a planetarium dome that will have a diameter of 35 meters provide seating for about 400 people.

    Most Technologically Advanced Planetarium

    The Hayden Planetarium: Boasts to be the most technologically advanced planetarium in the world. The Hayden Planetarium in located in the American Museum of Natural Science, New York City. The Hayden planetarium uses a one of a kind Zeiss projector that can display our universe and galaxy in high definition. On the bottom half of the Hayden sphere, visitors can also experience a display of the big bang exploding and expanding in front of their eyes.

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    Planetarium Images

    Hayden PlanetariumNagoya Science CenterRoyal Belgium Planetarium
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    Planetarium Programs Running

    Cosmic Origins: This program takes us through a journey of space and time. The program takes us through our own Milky Way and goes even farther to taking a look at the outer galaxies in the beginning of the universe. This program also shows how stars and planets are formed.

    Journey to the Edge of Space and Time: This program was developed by the Hayden observatory and the NASA-Smithsonian Education Forum. The Journey to the Edge of Space and Time program takes us to moments after the universe started to form, gigantic black holes, and huge cluster of galaxies. This program also takes on the subject of parallel universes which boggles the mind.

    New Horizons: This program will take you through a journey of our own solar system. It uses real images from space probes and projects them in stunning 3D imagery in a planetarium dome. You will travel and explore planets and moons, watch volcanic eruptions, and drop to the surfaces of our neighboring planets to experience what life would be like in these exotic environments.

    Touching the Edge of the Universe: A collaboration between the European Space Agency and leading European planetaria has produced an amazing new show debuting in Europe on May 7, 2009. Utilizing the latest in 3D technology, professional actors, and the most up to date information on the universe, the show tells the story of astronomy from Galileo's first glimpse through his telescope to the amazing discoveries made today by the large Earth based observatories and the fleet of space telescopes currently, and soon to be, in orbit. An English language version of the show will be available in June of this year.

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    Image Credits