Last week, the United States entered into a new era of spaceflight thanks to the partnership between NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The two organizations, which have been working collaboratively for almost a decade, made history with Demo-2, the first successful launch and docking of its Dragon spacecraft with the International Space Station where NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will live and work for a number of months.
This momentous occasion has rekindled the public’s keen interest in space. Though most of us will never get to travel to the stars like Behnken and Hurley, the Morrison Planetarium, located in the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, offers the next best thing.
The 68-year-old planetarium has been an integral part of the museum since 1952. It was the seventh major planetarium constructed in the United States and today, with its state-of-the art technology and 75-foot domed screen, is one of the largest all-digital planetariums in the world.
The planetarium’s unique star projector was constructed by Academy staff, who applied the expertise they gained doing optical work for the United States Navy during WWII. The dome simulates the tilt of the Earth. Its frame, comprised of 100 percent recycled steel, supports the expansive screen upon which is projected “true-to-life recreations of luminous, faraway space and skies.”
One of the most precise digital universes in existence, the planetarium offers immersive, real-life experiences of cutting-edge, scientific data which is transformed into awe-inspiring visual presentations including star shows and NASA feeds.
The entire museum is currently closed, but the Morrison Planetarium and its stellar staff are livestreaming a number of star-studded events in keeping with the Academy’s mission of “exploring, explaining and sustaining life.”
The Morrison Planetarium events can be found on their Facebook Page and include:
Virtual Tours of Outer Space
June 3, June 10, June 17 at 4:30pm
Wander through our Solar System and beyond using a variety of 3D software, some of which you can use in your own home.
Night Sky Update
June 11 and June 18 at 1:30pm
A quick preview of the current night sky: What planets are visible? What phase is the Moon in? What stars can you see, and how does the sky change through the night?
For those who can’t join live, the sessions are also posted on YouTube’s Open Space channel.
The planetarium’s website also offers a 2020 Almanac that provides dates and details about upcoming eclipses, meteor showers, when to spot satellites and other celestial occurrences. The site also includes quarterly Skywatcher’s Guides, Planet Watches, and space-related Seasonal Highlights.