August 18, 2010
TORONTO, ON – The Milky Way over Giza in 2500 BC. The stars above Toronto tonight. Amazing new views of the sky in radio waves, infrared light and gamma rays from space observatories.
With the opening of a state-of-the art planetarium this fall at UofT, thousands of students will get to see the sky like never before.
“No lecture slides or illustrations in books can offer our students the kind of understanding that can be achieved with a highly realistic and accurate picture of the night sky,” says Ray Carlberg, Associate Chair, Undergraduate, at UofT’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
“This digital planetarium is an extraordinary teaching tool. The projector allows us to digitally fly from viewing the sky from the dock of lake on a warm summer night, out through the solar system and Galaxy to get closeup views of planets, exploding stars, and merging galaxies. We can use it as a time machine to watch simulations of the big bang, the formation of galaxies, and formation of our own moon. Every UofT student taking astronomy at any level will have a chance to use it and senior students will have the opportunity to create new programs of their own.”
This student-oriented facility uses technology compatible with that used in world-renowned spaces like the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, says Carlberg. The technology will enable instructors to show students not only pre-set programs designed for the major planetaria, but also unique programs they develop based on student needs. Using the interactive software, students themselves can be creative in their own explorations of the sky using a standard video game controller.
“Because of light pollution, many people who live in Toronto have not had the pleasure of connecting with the night sky,” says Peter Martin, former chair of Astronomy and Astrophysics and professor at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics and interim director of the Dunlap Institute. “It’s exciting that thousands UofT students will soon enjoy a hugely interactive, high-tech view of the skies above this city and beyond.”
In the future, Martin expects the planetarium to be open to members of the public, first in association with the monthly Thursday night tours through the Department and then via new outreach programs developed by the Dunlap Institute.
The 8–metre wide planetarium – which can seat up to 20 people – is housed in a specially-renovated room in the Astronomy and Astrophysics building at 50 St. George St. and with some planning can be relocated to other venues for special events.
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