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Planetariums for Outreach (Am I nuts or what?)

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#126 Ron Walker

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Posted 27 July 2022 - 02:00 PM

Having happened upon your "Light pollution in a planetarium" thread this morning, I was led to this thread, which I proceded to read, non-stop... because I couldn't stop.

 

When I was about age eight (1952), every couple of months or so, my father began taking me to the Sunday afternoon "Sky Show" at Buhl Planetarium in Pittsburgh PA... which was, in those days, about an hour's drive north of home.

 

Possibly of interest, from an article in the December 2014 issue of "Planetarian - Journal of the International Planetarium Society":

 

Five Zeiss II projectors were installed in America during the 1930s.

 

Pittsburgh’s Zeiss II was the only Zeiss II to never receive any major modifications. Hence, by the 1990s, it was the oldest operable major planetarium projector in the world. After being dismantled in 2002 to make-way for building reuse by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, in 2010 it was reassembled for display-only at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center, where it still can be found today.

 

Buhl’s Zeiss II was the first such projector to be placed on an elevator. This special elevator, with four huge worm gears, was custom-built by Pittsburgh’s Westinghouse Electric Company. When the projector was lowered below floor level into the Zeiss pit, a stage would be automatically installed above the projector, allowing the Theater of the Stars to be used for other presentations.

 

This fifth Zeiss II became publically operational in Buhl Planetariumm in October of 1939.

 

Within the nearly-darkened dome, the effect of the Tyranosaurus-looking Zeiss rising from its pit to the accompanyment of subtle classical music was overwhelmingly mesmerizing... and the presentations offered by the knowledgable staff were both profoundly captivating and informative. It is a direct result of my being exposed to these planetarium "sky shows" that I purchased my first "real" astronomical telescope (a 4.25-inch EQ-mounted Newtonian) at age ten... and have been a dedicated DSO visual observer ever since.

 

So for me, the value of an "old school" planetarium like yours, for enlightening and nurturing the love and investigation of the starry sky, can not be understated... and no amount of "thanks", for what you have done -- and are continuing to do -- could possibly be sufficient.

 

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So glad you found my exploits worth reading and thank you for your kind words. 

 

My understanding is that the Buhl Zeiss was lowered into a glass enclosed room in the basement and then visitors could get a close up look of this most unique beast.  Sad they just didn't leave it there so that it could on occasion be brought up and enlighten each new generation of planetarium goers.

 

One of the attributes of seeing a classic planetarium star show is seeing that "Tyrannosaurus" in the center of the room.  A magical beast that whisks us away to a magical land. A device that tells us that something special is about to happen.  It is part of the show.

 

Not sure where in southern California you are but you might be interested in a planetarium museum in Big Bear Lake run by Owen Phairis.

 

If you like to drive you could make a long day trip and I would be happy to give you and/or your group a private show.  (That goes for any other interested parties as well)


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#127 B 26354

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Posted 27 July 2022 - 03:38 PM

Thanks so much for the tip about the planetarium museum in Big Bear Lake run by Owen Phairis. I live in a valley directly south of Big Bear, about an hour-and-a-half's drive away. Hadn't heard of the museum, but I'll definitely look it up!  waytogo.gif

 

And thank you very much for the invitation to visit your planetarium. I do have good friends who were my neighbors, and who just recently retired and moved to the Prescott area. I fully expect to be visiting them sometime in the next two or three years, on my way to spend some time on my nephew's farm in Iowa. Swinging through Cave Creek on the way out there (or on the way back), would be effortless... and spending some time in your dome would be an immense priviledge. I will definitely contact you, when the plans for my trip are in place!

 

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#128 B 26354

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Posted 28 July 2022 - 02:44 PM

As a follow-up to that article's statement that the Buhl Planetarium's Zeiss II was "reassembled for display-only at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center, where it still can be found today"... here's a photo that my nephew took of it in November of 2019, at the Science Center:

 

Zeiss II at Carnegie Science Center - 11-08-2019.jpg

 

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#129 Ron Walker

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Posted 28 July 2022 - 10:24 PM

Glad to see it is not out in the rain but sad that it's not useable.


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#130 B 26354

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Posted 28 July 2022 - 10:53 PM

I completely agree. I'm sure that it's a fascinating-looking piece of instrumentation to uninformed curiosity-seekers... but this photo breaks my heart.


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#131 Ron Walker

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Posted 30 July 2022 - 11:58 AM

I completely agree. I'm sure that it's a fascinating-looking piece of instrumentation to uninformed curiosity-seekers... but this photo breaks my heart.

What a great line for a segue.  For all of you out there that find this planetarium projector "a fascinating-looking piece of instrumentation to uninformed curiosity-seekers", I will present a detailed breakdown of the operation of the device illustrated with my Minolta IIB which is literally a half scale model of the Zeiss II.  It is perhaps the epidemy of mechanical clock making.


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#132 B 26354

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Posted 30 July 2022 - 01:00 PM

What a great line for a segue.  For all of you out there that find this planetarium projector "a fascinating-looking piece of instrumentation to uninformed curiosity-seekers", I will present a detailed breakdown of the operation of the device illustrated with my Minolta IIB which is literally a half scale model of the Zeiss II.  It is perhaps the epidemy of mechanical clock making.

That would be absolutely amazing. Yet another "thank you"!

 

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Edited by B 26354, 30 July 2022 - 01:01 PM.

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#133 Ron Walker

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Posted 27 August 2023 - 04:52 PM

As a follow-up to that article's statement that the Buhl Planetarium's Zeiss II was "reassembled for display-only at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center, where it still can be found today"... here's a photo that my nephew took of it in November of 2019, at the Science Center:

 

attachicon.gif Zeiss II at Carnegie Science Center - 11-08-2019.jpg

 

biggrin.png

What I find interesting is why they just didn't leave the projector on its elevator for all to see.  Being a glass half empty sort of person I can only conclude that the powers that be didn't want the old planetarium "competing" with the new digital planetarium as we all know which sky would win.  But then that's just me.



#134 Ron Walker

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Posted 27 August 2023 - 05:20 PM

For those that might be interested, a rather largo depository of information on hobby planetarians had accumulated on a site called "Observatory Central" under the moniker "Planetariums As A Hobby".  Unfortunately, the entire website crashed and burned.  I was able to save the planetarium portion of it and am now in the process of rebuilding the threads, post by post.  While it make take many years of spare time to rebuild the pages they do contain an even more detailed discussion of my planetarium build and what is new with my project.  If interested come join me at: https://planetariums....freeforums.net



#135 UnityLover

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Posted 13 September 2023 - 10:23 AM

On long island, asli (the main club) meets at a planetarium.



#136 Ron Walker

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Posted 13 October 2023 - 12:34 PM

A great place for any club to meet.  A planetarium sky is like a roadmap to the real sky.  I like the idea of first using the sky show to view what will be observed in the real night sky later.  While my outside sky is at best a Bortle 4/5 it is sometimes more fun to just stay inside.



#137 Takuan

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Posted 14 October 2023 - 07:26 AM

I vote for urban planetariums that show an NELM 7 sky. At the end of the projection, the presenter's speech should begin and end with something like this: "I hope you liked it. This is the sky you would see without any light pollution, in case you are wondering about the differences with the sky of our city."

#138 rongee

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Posted 19 October 2023 - 10:16 PM

I started reading this thread while searching for something completely different, and couldn't stop until I reached the end, or at least where the end is right now.  :-)

Ron, Thanks for much for sharing this adventure.  

 

I grew up in Chicago and started going to Adler in the late 1950's, when they still had the original Zeiss machine.  And I've been going there regularly ever since.  I miss the Zeiss planetarium.  There was a time when I tried to get access to it while it was still in storage at the Adler (I had an idea to make some replicas of components from hardwoods as a kind of art project, and then more recently, as I retired, thought about building a scale model as a metalworking project).  I heard that it ended up in a barn someplace, but I don't know that as a fact.  

It was interesting to hear about the planetarium that is on display as a non-operating object somewhere.  I volunteer at a local university where they have a very old particle accelerator that is no longer being used that has become the centerpiece of an art display building.  

I've got this strange urge to get on eBay and start looking for planetariums.....uh oh.  




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