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Friday, July 25, 2014

Andrus Planetarium reopens with a big bang

By Ashley Helms
Posted
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Image of ~150 light years from the Sun, large blue sphere defines reach of first Earthly radio transmissions, small blue spheres mark some of the stars known to have planets and overlay image is the map of gamma-ray source (ultra high-energy processes) all on view at the Andrus Planetarium at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Image of 150 light years from the Sun, large blue sphere defines reach of first Earthly radio transmissions, small blue spheres mark some of the stars known to have planets.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Jupiter and the orbits of some of its moons.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Marc Taylor, manager of the Andrus Planetarium at the console of the renovated planetarium computer system.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
The Zodiac signs Virgo, Leo and Cancer.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
The Solar System orbits along with planets and many dwarf planets.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
An animation of protons colliding in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire) located on the Swiss-French border near Geneva. A frame from We Are Astronomers, program produced by NSC Creative and part of the 3:30 weekend rotation.
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Inside the revamped Andrus Planetarium at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, the universe is opened up with just a few clicks of a mouse on a high-tech computer system.                                                                 

With the proper training, a curator can bring as many as 120 attendants flying through the galaxy, getting so close to planets, stars and constellations in awe-inspiring detail that one may forget their feet are still firmly planted on Earth. 

But the planetarium was not always equipped with modern equipment that can fire up different views of the universe without a hitch, as Planetarium and Science Programs Manager Marc Taylor explained. In fact, the planetarium reopened its doors to the public on March 8 after receiving a complete technological makeover starting last May.

“Before a show, sometimes something wouldn’t work right and you’d have to reach in with your finger and turn a piece because it would get stuck,” Taylor said, speaking about the planetarium before construction. “Or we’d oil it and hope the oil wouldn’t drip and hit the bulbs underneath and burst into flames.”

The reconstruction was a delicate operation. Fewer than a handful of companies in the world can repair a planetarium’s delicate equipment. 

“It’s not like you can go to Best Buy and get a bunch of pieces and stick them together,” Taylor said.

The new star projectors are bright with a high resolution, Taylor explained. They are similar to what movie theaters are equipped with, but pack four times the resolution of a Blu-ray DVD. 

Astronomers have been able to pinpoint other galaxies aside from our own as technology has advanced, Taylor said. Exhibit visitors can be brought on an intergalactic tour that is only possible from within the planetarium, all without leaving their seats.  

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