"I only have to look up at the stars,” people are prone to muse, “and I feel so insignificant.”
On a trip to the Melbourne Planetarium for its Discover the Night Sky series, it's easy to feel insignificant just looking at the ceiling. Let us contemplate the technology of this fulldome presentation. Two software packages – Sky-Skan’s DigitalSky and SkyVision – project a journey through the universe. The universe has been mapped out over the past 12 or so years by telescopes in Arizona and Chile, using near-infrared light to scan the sky. Once the data has been given the special effects treatment by Sky-Skan, the experience is like riding a virtual spaceship.
Watching the Earth pull away from us up in the dome is phenomenal enough. With its cities lit up, and circled by thousands of satellites, the sight is usually an astronaut’s privilege. But then we speed up and zoom back through the infinite constellations, solar systems and over 170 billion galaxies, while Dr Tanya Hill acts as tour guide. There are repetitive patterns: flat spirals with an eye-like nucleus appear over and over, no matter what space/time continuum we’re in.
We're shown the legends and lore that Aboriginal tribes saw in the skies, as well as the zodiac constellations. Lastly, we take a look at the night sky above us in Spotswood, with its backdrop of the West Gate Bridge.
As Hill attempts to layman-ise black holes, the intricacies of the Mars landing, quarks, our concept of “nothing” and the Milky Way (seriously, who named that? Oh, okay. The Romans), she generously shares the credit of the lifework of the world’s top scientists and mathematicians with the audience.
“You could say that we are very insignificant,” she offers, “but if you think about everything we’ve managed to map out from our tiny little planet, we’re actually very, very special.”
And she leads us out to the cheese and wine.
2nd Aug - Backyard Astronomy
9th Aug - Travel The Universe
16th Aug - The Solar System
23rd Aug - Exoplanets
30th Aug - Dark Energy
NEW! 13th Sep - Beneath Australian Skies
Listen to visiting expert Paul Cunrow from Adelaide Planetarium share stories of the night sky from indigenous groups across Australia.