Sunday, September 27, 2009

GCC Planetarium: The Coolest Thing I've Ever Seen In Glendale

The GCC Planetarium show is the most amazing thing I've ever seen in Glendale. If you've seen the planetarium show at the Griffith Observatory it will merely function as a warmup for the planetarium at GCC. At Griffith, an actor holding a glowing orb narrates a (pretty cool) movie about the universe, which is projected onto the dome. GCC's show is entirely different. For onething, the dome is much smaller, so the effective resolution and brightness of the projected images is much, much better than Griffith.

Most importantly, at GCC, an actual very knowledgeable astronomy professor (Paul Buehler) uses an amazing digital 3d system to literally fly you around the universe, and shows you whatever you, the audience, want to see, while very knowledgeably explaining the actual science behind why we know these things and what they mean. Nearly the entire presentation is based on the questions asked by the audience.

The first question was asked by a 4 year old girl: "Do fairies live on other planets?" Professor Buehler calmly explained that given what we now know about the number of habitable planets in the universe, statistically, its very likely that fairies DO exist out there on some other planet.

Visually, the dome is amazing. Hundreds of different datasets from satellites and probes can be loaded into the system and shown on the fly, as well as high resolution imagery from Hubble or any other source. It's way, way cool -- and a tremendous mental workout. For the first 45 minutes I was able to keep up with the staggering scale changes and conceptual leaps necessary to understand the universe, but after that I just let the narration wash over me and soaked in the imagery. My mind was blown.

"Evening With the Stars" schedule:

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