Out of this universe

Dunedin Planetarium. Image / Chris Sullivan
Dunedin Planetarium. Image / Chris Sullivan

There can't be too many places on this planet -- in fact, in this universe -- where you can be catapulted into space, dive into the ocean's deepest trenches, run with dinosaurs, or shrink yourself small enough to investigate the inside of a cell.

At Otago Museum's new Perpetual Guardian Planetarium, visitors can do all that, and more, without leaving their seats.

The world's southernmost planetarium opened in December 2015, is the only fully 3D planetarium in Australia or New Zealand.

The museum's in-house planetarium team has created the three 45-minute shows currently running in the planetarium -- featuring the southern skies, Maori sky lore and our universe.

Amazing Universe, narrated by Mark Hadlow, takes viewers from Hooper's Inlet on the Otago Peninsula through space and time to the outer reaches of the known universe.

Marama a-Whetu: Light of the Stars is an exploration of Maori myths and legends relating to the night sky.

The show gives an overview of how Polynesian explorers navigated to Aotearoa and highlights significant astronomical features for all New Zealanders.

The Sky Tonight explores what the sky over Otago will look like later that night. Visitors will learn about stars, constellations and deep sky objects, and find out how best to view them.

"The planetarium is more than a place to explore space. It is a place where knowledge is shared and curiosity sparked, and that might lead to new ideas and enterprises in the years to come," said Perpetual Guardian founder Andrew Barnes.

As well as becoming lead sponsor in October 2015, Perpetual Guardian has committed additional funds to assist schools from rural Otago areas and low-decile schools in engaging with the new facility through their Reach for the Star programme.


Image / Chris Sullivan
Image / Chris Sullivan

Leading into the planetarium is the Beautiful Science gallery, showcasing a world-first in laser interactive technology that offers another way to explore the nature of science.

Developed with Wellington-based Gibson Group, the gallery was inspired by the idea that curiosity is born out of awe and wonder.

Its 12 4.5m x 2m screens are activated by lasers. With a simple hand movement through the laser beams, visitors can scroll through vast, multi-layered digital canvases of each season.

Some 150 multimedia stories are layered into the huge canvases, so visitors can 'dig down' through the images to explore fascinating details.

The gallery includes more than 1200 media components from local, national and international suppliers.

One of the largest contributors of images is Otago Daily Times newspaper, which sourced content from their archives including everything from major weather events to significant moments in Otago's history.

Dunedin-based factual television producer and film-makers NHNZ were also major contributors, as were NIWA, MetService and the Department of Conservation.

"The Beautiful Science gallery is a must-see.

"The more you explore the seasonal screens, the more you see," says Otago Museum director Dr Ian Griffin.

"The museum is enormously proud of this new gallery, and the work the Gibson Group has done to create a brand new user experience."

The planetarium and gallery are the newest additions to the museum's science engagement spaces.

They join Discovery World, a hands-on, play-oriented science centre, and Tropical Forest, a lush, living gallery where visitors can meet exotic butterflies and other rainforest dwellers.

 Perpetual Guardian Planetarium: Buy tickets from Otago Museum or at www.otagomusuem. nz/planetarium. Adult $10, child 4-18 years $7. Concession tickets for seniors, students and community card holders with ID $9.Combo passes covering a planetarium show and all-day pass to Discovery World Tropical Forest are available.

- NZ Herald

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