Monday, June 11, 2007

A room full of stars


This amazing contraption is a Zeiss ZKP4, the latest type of planetarium projector. The first one in Europe is at Harewood House. Yesterday we were treated to a public showing, even though the complex is far from complete. Don't be fooled by the picture- the dumbell bit is only anout 5' long.

I was reminiscing with my Mum about when we went to the London Planetarium at Madame Tussauds in the late 60s. She had recollections about the presenter's smooth silky voice and being rather disappointed to see this small wizened old man behind the controls at the end of the show. My recollections are of the show starting and the presenter saying "Oh dear, we seem to have lost the Southern Hemisphere" and bringing the lights up. Then, a few minutes later, someone in overalls turned up with a large box and changed the largest lamp I had ever seen (and him getting a round of applause for his efforts).

Visiting again over the years and sinking into those soft, tilted seats, the show became more and more sophisticated with lasers, visual effects & thumping rock tracks. Last year, the planet bit was finally abandoned.

Yorkshire Planetarium is something of a contrast. The entrance is decking in a gravel car park. You get given a mat in the star chamber and lie on the floor. It takes a while to get acclimatised so the presentation works through twilight and light polluted city sky until finally the lights are all out and you can see the Galaxy in all its glory.

This is a snap of the Yorkshire Zeiss.

The London Projector was much, much bigger than the Yorkshire one and I tracked down a picture of the astronomer who wrote the final show standing next to it.

(Those cone shaped things are the milky way projectors).

What inspired the Yorkshire Proprietor to set one up? From walking the dog. You see a lot of the galaxy that way.

Update: Ian ridpath has graciously rescanned the image above to make the picture much better. He pointed out that he was the show writer, not presenter, as it was essentially on autopilot.

2 comments:

james higham said...

Simply fascinating take on the planetarium, Ian. I enjoy the show too.

Delicolor said...

James, I particularly liked when Tussauds had a silhouette of the London skyline all the way round the dome, long gone.