Glasgow planetarium inspires youngsters to reach for the stars

21 February 2019

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Photograph: Emma Lawson

Glasgow Science Centre’s Planetarium has been inspiring the younger generation to reach for the stars with their newest Planetarium shows, We Are Aliens, Wonders of the Night Sky and Space Explorers. Each show has its own recommended age limit.

The Planetarium has a state-of-the art full dome digital projection system. The shows play on the 360-degree, 15 metre dome with 115 reclining theatre. The Planetarium has produced several live presenter-led shows that have allowed visitors to go to journeys into the stars, the Milky Way, and the galaxy.

First opened in 2015, the Planetarium had 100,038 visitors in its first year. That number continues to grow and over 25 thousand school students have seen a Planetarium show.

Photograph: Glasgow Science Centre Website

Space Explorers is aimed at children under the age of seven. The show takes visitors on a journey, beginning with viewing the stars in the night sky, identifying constellations, and includes interaction with an astronomer orator asking questions and allowing the audience to choose which planet to visit in the Solar System.

Nina Cameron, Coordinator of the Planetarium, spoke about her inspiration behind the creation of Space Explorers. “Our aim with Space Explorers is to introduce children and their parents to the Planetarium, to help them figure out what they’re seeing in the night sky, and to take them on a journey to the Moon, then on to the planets in our Solar System.”

The full dome digital Planetarium makes it possible to produce breath-taking visuals. To make the show more enjoyable, the astronomers produce the show based on their knowledge of what is currently happening in space. Their task is also to create a child-friendly show and answer viewers’ sometimes difficult questions.

The astronomers who present each show also adapt how they deliver each show for audiences of different needs and ages. The orators also take questions and remain behind at the end of each show to answer any questions about the show individually as well as general queries about  planets and stars.

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The Stars featured in Space Explorers. Photograph: Emma Lawson

Inspiring the future generation is one of the main goals of the Planetarium.

Cameron said: “It’s important that children are inspired by space, not just by the wonder of it, but by the people who are involved in exploring and understanding it. There are so many great role models to look up to, from astronauts, to the people who got those astronauts into space, all of whom have a wide variety of skills.”

Although, the younger generation is the main target, the Planetarium hopes to inspire adults as well: “For adults, it’s equally important. It’s easy to dismiss space exploration as a waste of money, but we benefit hugely from technology that’s a spin-off of space programmes. It’s those adults in our audiences that will be responsible for encouraging the children and young people in their lives into careers in space-related fields.”

Many visitors have described the shows as exciting for adults and children, especially for those who haven’t been inside a planetarium before.

Hillhead Primary School recently visited the Planetarium, to complement the Primary 1 class’s lessons about space. They described their time at the Planetarium as “awesome”  and a “great day” for the youngsters in a tweet.

Michelle Higgins, who also recently visited the Planetarium, says she always enjoys her visits there. “I’ve been to the Planetarium a few times and I have always enjoyed it!”

The Planetarium’s shows are vital for encouraging the younger generation to get into science. Studies show a decrease in young adults pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) careers. Women are still largely outnumbered by men, with only 41% of women getting degrees in the physical sciences.

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Photograph: Emma Lawson

Glasgow Science Centre’s Planetarium has a variety of shows available currently, including Space Explorers and several different seasonal shows. They also have offer guest lectures as well as the upcoming celebration of one of the most important space-themed days with the Planetarium’s May the 4th Star Wars show.

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