Thursday, May 1, 2014

Einstein Planetarium Unveils New Projection System

The Milky Way

The Ultimate "Room with a View"

"There's more to the universe than meets the eye," observes famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in Dark Universe, a sparkling 24-minute peak at the Cosmos... specifically the bulk of which, most of us never get to see. Its' arrival coincides with the debut of the Einstein Planetarium's 8K Full Dome Digital System, a "future-proof" upgrade over the Air & Space Museum's 12-year-old digital projectors. Both the film, and its presentation are awesome; and provides museum-goers, one more reason to visit the great Air & Space (as if we needed another.)

Four years in the making, Dark Universe provides a fascinating history lesson of our universe (13.8 billion years old, if you're keeping score at home) in addition to its impressive visuals. Speaking of, 8K stands for 8,000 pixels (16x better than HD quality) more than twice as good as before, and miles above the original analog projector given as a gift to the Air & Space Museum by West Germany for the US Bicentennial. In other words... really, really clear.


In 1995, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft (pictured above) sent a probe hurtling into Jupiter’s atmosphere. Among other experiments, the probe measured the abundance there of deuterium, hydrogen with an extra neutron. This measurement confirmed the prediction of the Big Bang theory that the universe was once so hot everywhere that deuterium could be formed by nuclear fusion.

That's very cool; but Dark Universe doesn't stop there... stretching more than two million light years away to the Andromeda Galaxy. Two million light years. Soak that in for a moment: What you're seeing is the aforementioned Andromeda Galaxy, as it was 20,000 centuries ago. Incredible. I added a Celestron telescope to my wish list, the minute I got home. Talk about "Deep Impact."

Dark Matter

Later on, we discover there's a dark matter detector on the International Space Station. Dark matter is an invisible material that emits or absorbs no light, but betrays its presence by interacting gravitationally with visible matter. Dark energy makes up 70% of the known universe: Dark matter pretty much makes up the rest. Sure, it's a bit confusing; but the images are nothing shy of spectacular. Imagine what the 8K Full Dome Digital System's six projectors will be able to showcase, once more films are custom-made to take full advantage of the technology.

Meanwhile, space junkies can continue to enjoy some of the older tech at Air & Space - including the Star Wars-like Zeiss Mark 6A projector, which gets to "stretch its legs" so to speak, a few times each week (for night-sky lectures.) Also on display, Edwin Hubble's chair from the Mount Wilson Observatory, where Hubble first spotted the expansion of the universe. It just goes to show you, there's always something new (and old) to see at the Air & Space Museum.

Special thanks to geographer Dr. Andrew K. Johnston, who led a riveting discussion for local media after the screening of Dark Universe. The Einstein Planetarium is open seven days a week (closed Christmas Day) and you can purchase tickets to see Dark Universe (or Journey to the Stars) by clicking here. Free tickets are also available to see The Stars Tonight daily at 10:30 AM. Also, be sure to check out the Phoebe Waterman Public Observatory, located outside on the National Air and Space Museum's east terrace. Very, very cool.