I wanted this inaugural article to convey my deepest beliefs about the sky and our relationship with it, so here we go…
Working at the planetarium is fun and rewarding for me. Thanks to all the technology, the ooohs and ahhhs from the audience are as rewarding as the active chatter of students leaving the theatre. I hope it lasts, and that maybe one young person is inspired to continue an interest in science, maybe astronomy. But all that technology is a source of sadness for me. Despite how wonderful it looks, it is not real.
The emotions and energy we feel in the mountains, forest, beach, or any special place are important to our existence as beings of this world. Those feelings remind of this world’s beauty and our place in it. Unfortunately the view of the night sky over any populated area on this planet has been eradicated due to light pollution. Our visual connection with the universe is permanently handicapped, at least for city folk. Planetariums have become “virtual night sky preserves” for the urban public. I am saddened by the thought of children with young fresh eyes and imaginations that will never truly see the sky.
Maybe that’s why I live in the country now. I wasn’t running from the city, I wanted to be closer to nature. Just 12 miles from CTC’s campus, the night sky is noticeably darker. My family gets up and goes out at all hours to view eclipses, meteor showers, animals, whatever. And that’s what I want to do with interested, students, employees, Planetarium members, and the public. Give you a chance to see the sky, and nature at its best. I have a few ideas that will be posted to our website soon. The first is SNAP, for Short Notice Astronomy Program. The sky has to be clear for a telescope to work; the clearer the better. It seems when you schedule one of these events, the weather never cooperates. Using sky clarity and weather forecasting technology, participants would be emailed, tweeted, or texted 24 to 36 hours in advance of a prime viewing event.
Expect to see a lot more posted to the website on current and upcoming scientific and astronomical events and lots more at the Mayborn Science Theatre.