Education Manager, Vanessa Rancour, has invested many hours into the development of a new, Stardome produced planetarium show.
As one of the educators here at Stardome, I get a lot of questions. There are quite a few that are frequently asked, and this got me thinking: ‘Why not develop a show that can put some of these questions into context?’ To answer your first burning question, yes, this show will give you the exact location you can find Uranus. Unfortunately, that part of the sky might not be visible at the time of the year you watch the show, so you’ll just have to try again next time. That’s right, every time you see this show it will be different as the content changes to be relevant to the night sky around the time of your visit. Everything in our universe is in motion; from the motion of Earth’s rotation to Earth’s orbit around the Sun to the orbits of the other planets and beyond! Our perspective on the universe is constantly changing depending on where Earth is facing when it turns away from the Sun to see the night sky.
A Show Series
However, this is quite a lot of information to put into one show, so a show series was born. This series takes place once a season on the night of a solstice or equinox. It begins with the constellations visible after sunset and ends with the ones visible at sunrise, with some space travel here and there. It also explores what constellations are and how we use them for astronomical purposes. By doing this, we are introduced to some fantastic figures from ancient Greek myths and legends. But why do we use mostly Greek constellations in astronomy? You’ll find that out too, as well as learn about some of our local myths and legends from Aotearoa, New Zealand. Also, anytime a planet is discussed, you’ll get insights into where the planet names came from in English as well as in Te Reo Maori.
With these legends and astronomical revelations, I couldn’t possibly do the show all on my own! To go along with a live night sky show by a member of the Stardome crew where they can answer questions and point out slight differences in the sky from the show on the night of your visit, we have two guest crewmates. Lucy Lawless tells the myths and legends, but with a family-friendly twist that brings these ancient stories to life in a way they have never been told before (we didn’t want her to get too bored rehashing stories she has heard often enough before). John Rhys-Davies is our stellar navigator, who pulls from his previous astronomical knowledge as a member of the Planetary Society Advisory Council (and adds in some humour here and there as he is known for being able to do from watching him in some of his other roles).
Another question you might be thinking at this point is “when can I see the show?” Well, the Winter Stories in the Sky is launching in less than a months’ time! Keep an eye out for our winter show schedule for show times during June. If you end up not being able to make any of those, another chance to view will be during our winter school holiday programme in July. But don’t stress too much if that doesn’t fit into the schedule either, because there will be the Spring/Summer/Autumn Stories in the Sky to come and check out while you wait for winter to roll around again.