This article is written by Yong Jian-Yi, a Master Science Educator from the Science Centre Singapore, chronicling his experience at the Conference organised by the International Planetarium Society in Warsaw, Poland.
What is a planetarium?
No, it isn’t an Observatory or telescope! But it is a place to see stars.
It is a projection of the night sky onto the inside of a Dome, not just stars, but a visualisation of the entire observable Universe. We could virtually be at any single position of the universe!
From the rings of Saturn to Orions belt, surfing from nebulas to galaxies to quasars, allowing the observer to be immersed fully in the experience. When I fly us down to the surface of Mars, you will feel as if you are really there.
About the Conference
So what is the conference about?
Biannually the International Planetarium Society (IPS) holds a conference in different parts of the World. This year, it is in Poland. The guests were a mix of Scientists, Artists, Educators and everything in between!
The purpose of the conference were manifold, partially to allow the flow of ideas to be shared among the different planetariums around the world, exploration and discussion of new technologies and for potential buyers to peruse the wares of producers of Planetarium products.
As the first time attendee of the conference, it was a bit overwhelming. Fortunately I was in good hands, as many of the participants were kind to a ‘blur sotong’. With luck I managed to survive the experience!
The venue which the conference is held at is the Copernicus Planetarium (Warsaw). Although I call it a planetarium, it is pretty much a Science Centre containing large exhibition halls and an army of Science Explainers. The difference is that the focus is very much on planetariums, they have around 2 permanent domes, and 3 semi-permanent domes installed just for the conference!
My Role at the Conference
Part of my job at the IPS was to be an ambassador from Science Centre Singapore, to explain to everyone “Hi, we also have a planetarium in Singapore!”.
The talk that I gave at the conference was the philosophy and techniques for engaging in a live show. It was very exciting to see what different planetariums around the World have come up with, in terms of their own unique take on presentation of live shows, but here I am putting the cart before the horse.
So, let me explain what is a live show, in relation to a Planetarium. It is a live presentation (with a narrator) operating a realtime movement through a 3D rendered environment. Think of it as a giant game world which you can fly around. Some of the Planetariums focused on their liveshows as an artpiece with music and visual effects, others are a pure delivery of content. I personally like to believe that our Planetarium aims to give a fair balance of both Science and Art.
Warsaw isn’t a very old city as over 90 percent of its buildings were destroyed by the Nazis following World War 2. It was quite impressive because many part of the old city was rebuilt to specification from old photographs. Warsaw, of course, is home to the famous Astronomer Copernicus who proposed the concept of a heliocentric model of the Universe as opposed to the geocentric model. I also visited the domicile of Marie Curie, who of course is 2 times winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics and Chemistry. Well this ends my little sharing for my June holiday! I also managed to visit Austria and Hamburg along the way, but that must be for another day.