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Monday, August 6, 2012

Recent Planetarium Shows at Science Festivals

Trying to catch up on some observatory updates after all the education programmes and events that have been going on since the start of the new school term at the end of June.

We've just finished a week of Kids Science Fest, as part of the Singapore Science Festival, where amongst activities such as light painting and marble machines, we also conducted six planetarium shows a day inside our STARLAB portable planetarium.

 These planetarium sessions are normally available for bookings by school and kindergarten groups but this is the second time we've used the STARLAB at this event, in addition to a two week period during the December holidays last year.

The system uses a popular astronomical software called Starry Night, which displays a virtual image of the sky via a projector on the inside of the inflatable dome. The projector is equipped with a fisheye lens to create a 360 degree view of the entire sky.

We actually have another planetarium that we take out of Science Centre to schools as part of our outreach programme. Last month, we visited Anderson Secondary School and Victoria Junior College.
This older more basic system, uses a halogen light bulb and series of projecting cylinders, each of which has a fixed number for images, for examples e.g constellations.

Here we are set up on a sheltered basketball court at Anderson Secondary, as part of their local cluster science day event, which involves a number of other schools from the around the same area.

Ideally, these portable domes should be placed in a indoor, air conditioned venue. However, due to limited space at the school, we opted for this semi-outdoor area, which although sheltered from Sun, was still very warm and stuffy inside the dome as warm outside air is continually blown in to the dome to keep it inflated.

A few days later we were at VJC, for a similar Science day event for east zone schools. We've attended this event for the past few years and set up in our regular venue, the AVA Lecture Theatre. There's just enough room on the small stage to squeeze in the fully inflated dome ad there's air-con too!!!

It has crossed my mind to set up an inflatable planetarium at the observatory, on several occasions during Friday night stargazing, however, we're a bit short on space as well as manpower. A more permanent planetarium may be the answer, but that may take sometime to become a reality, we'll see what we can do.

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