What is a Planetarium?

As a Planetarist, I have managed to understand many things in relation to Planetariums, in fact, being a Planetarist is a specialty, because to understand what a Planetarium is, we must first introduce ourselves to the role occupied by those responsible for the houses. of astronomy, work.

Yes, we planetariums operate planetariums, but our work is based on more than operating a series of technological equipment, touching buttons or knobs or keys on a computer. Planetarists are disseminators of space sciences, music lovers and masters of ceremonies, technicians, teachers of all educational levels, from the smallest to the most professional and in various areas of knowledge, we are content creators and supervisors of the same, we can We work alone and as a team and more than anything, we are professionals in our work.

But where do the planetarists come from? When I worked in my first planetarium, I met the oldest planetarium specialist there, a man of about 60 years old, and the Planetarium had been inaugurated for exactly the same time. Then I thought “He arrived in the same box where the Projector arrived.” As a joke, of course, but basically a planetary scientist exists from the moment the planetarium operates, and can come from anywhere, he can be an astronomy fan who wants to learn as was my case, but also a professional. in the sciences and astronomy, a musician, an artist, a student, electrician, or housewife. Despite not being properly trained for this position, once he enters the Planetarium he acquires other talents and specialties that make him as professional as anyone else. That is why these first lines are dedicated to planetaryists.

Planetariums are already 100 years old, and despite the fact that there are more than 4,000 planetariums in the world, I have heard people confuse it with “observatory”, a space where planets are seen, which is not far from something related since these can be represented within the planetarium. objects; On the other hand, I have learned that the concept of planetarium is divided into two in some cases.

The first speaks of the planetarium as the optical-mechanical type device or digital projectors brought to the present day that are responsible for carrying out the entire representation in real time or simulations of the sky and the universe on a

hemispherical dome and secondly the planetarium is the entire building, the space designed to house said device and which, in addition to the projection room, could have other spaces to represent the wonders of the cosmos, such as exhibitions, models, telescopes and even astronomical observatories.

The second concept is actually more comprehensive and the experience of visiting a planetarium can become one or several hours of learning and entertainment. During my tour of South America between 2017 and 2020, I met many planetariums and I was able to notice that there are differences in terms of their construction and administration, something that I captured in my book “The Planetarist”.

In addition to the so-called Dome Planetariums, there are Museum-Planetariums, Astronomical Complexes, university planetariums, Mobile Planetariums, among others.

The Planetarium and its role in science, education and public dissemination.A planetarium is a space for the dissemination of science in general. At the beginning it focused solely on astronomy and was limited to the representation of the stars as well as other elements of the celestial vault. I think I lived in the middle of that transition of technological evolution, since I not only managed to operate these planetariums but also the integration of slide projectors that expanded a little more on the concepts discussed in the talks and later, the inclusion of multimedia projectors, audio and video made the concept of dissemination take off and include new areas of knowledge such as geology, oceanography, biology, physics and chemistry and even paleontology, which is why it serves as an educational and complementary tool for the implementation of science. However, I understood that there are, at the moment, 3 generations of planetarists. The first are these elderly gentlemen who gave talks and conferences very casually, in suits and ties, with a refined and correct voice, who had Bach, Schubert, Brahm, Mozart or Vivaldi in the musical background and for almost an hour you could listen to them non-stop detailing each point in the simulated sky and these dominated the planetariums from their inauguration until the 90s… and some still exist. The latter, already integrated computers into their systems, changed the musical genre for something more from their era, pop, new age, epic music or

composers, in addition to slide projectors that allow one to leave astronomy and talk about other topics of science, their speech is less formal as is their clothing, but the impact on the public is diverse.

The third generation of Planetarists has already included the Fulldome and visual effects in their planetariums, most of the work is now done by computers and the speech was left in the background, but it is still important, the planetariums are more immersive and with a impressive definition, you no longer only have starry skies but you can navigate between the planets, you can enter each ocean, forest and even become a bug and enter the human body in a spaceship to learn how it works, travel in time to the era of the dinosaurs or the very origin of the universe.

* Inside the planetarium

Entering the planetarium is a beautiful experience from start to finish, inside the main room of a planetarium it is possible to see, in addition to the projector device – which in older planetariums is usually in the center of the room – as the “protagonist of the place”, while in the most modern ones it is almost not perceived and is more similar to a cinema with directional chairs or seats, as well as the operator panel located towards the rear and from where the commands or creation of the shows are carried out, which can be in live or through pre-made videos on different topics.

When you enter it is as if you were entering a spaceship, the atmosphere is fresh, quiet, when you sit down you are comfortable and there is a calm before the start of the presentation, where you hear the speaker welcoming you and telling you the rules. , as if you were on a plane, and suddenly darkness, which can be simulated in a sunset or simply sudden to start a central theme, but these first seconds disconnect you from reality and literally take you into the universe.

It is there where as a user we follow the work of the planetarist, although the projection of stars on the dome represents the sky in real time on a smaller scale, but the operator shows how to people the patterns of the constellations, not only using the imagination to join the bright points of the stars with imaginary lines, but also showing

images that help to understand the reason for the constellations, based on the mythologies or cultures from which they have been inherited, also using them as reference points to begin a journey of discovery towards deep space and knowing what lies beyond the naked eye. .

On the other hand, more than entertainment, the Planetarium can do more than show a starry sky or images. Today, technology allows tools for the study of astronomy to be found within this facility, through the representation of coordinates. astronomical images in the celestial vault, cardinal points or useful features for astronomers in training or space science fans, so it is a great opportunity to learn with each visit.

Additionally, they have been implemented in the STEAM Approach, where in addition to sciences such as Astronomy, it also includes biology, nature, Physics, Chemistry, Immersive Technologies or robotics, Engineering or astronautics, Visual Arts and even mathematics which integrate other audiences within the planetarium. as a space for knowledge and that is worth visiting many more times or spending all day there.

Planetariums are also conceived as convention or conference centers, discussions, congresses and meeting points or references for cities due to their unique infrastructure.

What to expect when you visit a planetarium?

Planning your visit to the planetarium can be done alone or with friends, a planned or simply improvised experience that may surprise you, but it doesn’t hurt to check the planetarium’s operating hours, reservation system, entry costs and functions or if there is any important activity. which you want to attend.

Planetariums generally have shows published weekly or monthly, as these billboards usually change or update and if not, it doesn’t hurt to consult the operators for new shows.

On the other hand, it is important to understand that no planetarium is the same as another, there are about 4,000 planetariums in the world, they all have different technologies, layouts of projectors in their rooms, original or shared presentations, complementary or unique activities and it is always worth

It is worth visiting both the planetariums in your city or country, as well as those on a trip you take abroad where you will not only be visiting a space of knowledge but also a journey through the immensity of the cosmos.

However, if you live in South America, here I leave you a list of planetariums by country and some details that you can take advantage of, there are more than 50, but I will highlight the most notable ones, and I will comment on the rest in other articles.

Venezuela: In Caracas, there is the Humboldt Planetarium, the largest and oldest in the country, it has analog technology, an ant in the center of the room that projects the stars on a 20-meter dome, but also performs plays and musical presentations. during the year. It is also within a 2-hectare park, home to the famous macaws, of different colors and which are usually part of the identity of the Caracas native.

Colombia: There you have the Bogotá Planetarium, Medellín Planetarium, these have immersive technology and original shows. In Bogotá you can not only enjoy astronomy but also the artistic and cultural shows that the shape of its main room allows, in addition to visiting the astronomical museum and other spaces of social interest that the venue has.

In Medellín, for its part, you can visit the Planetarium, its museum and enjoy its original exhibits, but also on the outskirts of the planetarium you have very important cultural spaces such as the Plaza de la Música, the Botanical Garden and Parque Explora, where throughout the year day you will surely have things to do and learn. If at the end of these tours you feel like more, you can visit the Planetarium la Enseñanza, which is part of a school, but you must contact us beforehand to reserve your visit.

Ecuador: This country owes its name to the line that divides our planet into two hemispheres from where you can see the entire northern and southern stars. And right in Quito, there are 3 planetariums that show the starry sky in their own way.

The Planetarium of the Military Geographic Institute (IGM) is an astronomical museum, where you will find science and astronomy exhibits before entering its room, which is one of the largest in South America.

The Mundo Juvenil Foundation technological planetarium, an interactive cultural center that has activities for children, young people and adults and themes

of dinosaurs, arts, and now artificial intelligence, a very modern planetarium that is also located within an extensive park.

Middle of the World Planetarium: While it is one of the first planetariums, its technology still displays the stars in a small building next to the iconic Middle of the World monument.

To the south of Ecuador, there are also the planetariums of Guayaquil and Cuenca, which we will talk about in other articles.

Peru:Visiting the city of Lima you can find the Chorrillos Planetarium or the Morro Solar, right at the top of a hill facing the Pacific Ocean, it stands out from a distance with a spectacular view, it has 2 levels, the lower one is a museum that It preserves the relics of its beginnings and at the top the astronomical projection room where you can enjoy immersive activities. It works on Sundays, but on Saturdays there is the Geophysical Institute of Peru (IGP) that also carries out hybrid projections. If you want to know what that means, visit them or wait for our next article.

We cannot not talk about our planetarium, El Planetarium Cusco, but if you are from outside Peru, I will give you a quick guide, you have surely heard of Machu Pichu, one of the most famous ruins in South America, it is located in Cusco just like our Planetarium, so surely before or after visiting the famous ruins, you will want to look at the sky and learn about the Inca constellations in the only planetarium powered by the energy of a star in South America, observe with telescopes and complete your experience in a natural environment.

Bolivia: Of its three plantations, you can enjoy the planetarium of the city of Alto or La Paz, which in the middle of these large cities shows you the stars by breaking the barrier of light pollution, but in the city of Tarija, in the south east of the country. , you can find not only a large planetarium but also an astronomical complex with more than 5 observatories that has historically carried out very important astronomical work in the country.

Argentina: It is the Spanish-speaking South American country with more than 10 planetariums distributed in several of its provinces, one of the most emblematic is undoubtedly the Galileo Galilei Planetarium, located in the Federal Capital, since with its architecture and technology it manages to be a hall of astronomical spectacles that are well worth visiting, however, in the

In the heart of the country, Córdoba, there is a relatively new planetarium also with hybrid technology that not only has a planetarium, but an entire educational complex where you can learn about other branches of science in a building in the shape of a double dodecahedron. The Plaza Cielo-Tierra planetarium.

Chile: This country has few planetariums, but the most important and oldest is undoubtedly the planetarium of the University of Santiago de Chile, which has immersive-hybrid technology and constantly performs immersive functions and high-quality original content, highly recommended.

Well, Chile is known as the capital of astronomy due to the quality of its skies in its northern region.

Uruguay: The Montevideo planetarium is nothing more and nothing less than the first planetarium in South America, it is the father of planetariums on this continent and whose optical-mechanical technology still works, however, it has been renovated with fulldome technology to let this device rest that for almost 70 years showed the stars to many Uruguayan generations. It is the only planetarium at the moment and in this centenary of the Planetariums the XIII meeting of Planetariums of South America will be held in which we will be present.

Brazil:The largest country on the South American continent, it is also the country with the most planetariums, around 70! Between fixed and mobile, they form a constellation of domes and domes where Brazilians contemplate the universe. It is difficult to recommend any, so better, we recommend them all, from the South to the North they have planetariums of various companies and technologies, of various sizes and for all audiences, even though their shows are in Portuguese, the language is not difficult to learn if it is about enjoying all these immersive experiences.

Bryant Gonzalez Vasquez


Dir. Canopus Planetarium, PY

Member APAS, IPS

November, 2023

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