So you want to learn how to operate a planetarium?
the first show.
This is not the official website of Andrus,
and has no connection with Andrus at all.
The official Andrus site is
- Websites for the
The planetarium has a 14-meter (46-foot) dome and seats 121,
not counting the operator.
- Hardware, including
- Software and content:
format) for the
- Andrus Almanac: DLP
while audience is entering
Lua Edu Tools.
Celestia on Solaris.
The Celx Programming Language.
files from the
C:\Program Files\Software Bisque\TheSky\User\Documents
folder on the
- Laser disc
for Pluto and Charon
- The Sky Tonight
has animated GIFs displayed by the
- 12:30 p.m.:
The Friendly Stars.
is almost the same.
- 1:30 p.m.:
The Sky Tonight
changes on the equinoxes and solstices.
Remember to replace the title slide.
- 2:30 p.m.:
Solar System Safari
in April, 2009.
Shows at 3:30 p.m. and for school groups:
- Bad Astronomy:
Myths and Misconceptions
- Daughter of the Stars
- Earth & Sky,
Friday, April 20, 2007.
- Follow the Drinking Gourd
- Holiday Rocket,
by Marc Taylor
Cat in Space/Fito,
Gato en el Espacio
Our Place in Space
Viaje a los Planetas
(Voyage to the Planets,
recorded in Spanish)
on October 6 and 29, 2006.
- Light Years from
- Lunar Odyssey
premiered on Saturday, January 5, 2008.
Last shown Sunday, October 29, 2006.
- Ocean of Air,
Ocean of Space premiered Friday, April 20, 2007.
- The Planets,
narrated by Kate Mulgrew.
- Ring World
- River Through Time,
by Marc Taylor
- Rusty Rocket’s Last Blast.
Cat in Space
Our Place in Space
on October 6, 2006.
- Voyage to the Planets,
live in English
How to get there
- Take the
from Grand Central Terminal to Glenwood (33 minutes).
you should depart from Grand Central at 11:20 a.m.
to get to the 12:30 p.m. show.
- Walk up the hill on Glenwood Avenue (your only choice).
- Make the first left onto Ravine Avenue.
- At the end of Ravine Avenue (one block),
continue straight ahead through
you’ll see the white planetarium dome.
The whole walk is ten minutes.
Old Croton Aqueduct
to Shonnard Terrace in Yonkers
(between pillars 20 and 21),
then down the hill to Warburton Avenue.
to Yonkers City Pier.
from Yonkers to Glenwood,
or walk north.
Although you may sometimes see a “birthday party group”
come into the planetarium,
they are visiting the museum as regular visitors.
The museum no longer does birthday parties, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, or weddings.
If they say that they should get special treatment, special seating,
a whole show dedicated to them, etc., well, no.
Feel free to say “happy birthday,”
or point to
if the birthday boy/girl is turning 9 years old.
Things to bring
- Museum ID card
- 3½″ transfer floppy
What I’ve learned
- Notes in red ink are invisible
under the red console lights.
- A 48-minute show must end at 18 minutes past the hour.
- When setting up a show,
load the removable media first
since this can be done while the previous audience is leaving.
since this makes you lose control of the
can be turned up but not down.)
Set up the
in the middle.
white and blue lights on while audience enters and exits.
- If the audience enters to the first movement of
Eine kleine Nachtmusik,
they should exit to the fourth movement.
- Keep the stars in very slow forward diurnal motion
(the “poor man’s twinkle”).
Halt this motion for
“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”
The Friendly Stars
Our Place in Space.
- Effects are more pleasing when faded in rather than switched on suddenly
- If you sit in the console on the short stool during a prerecorded program,
stand up every now and then to see how the audience is doing
(or whether they are still there at all).
- Running through the nine planets is the astronomical equivalent
of memorizing the capitals of the fifty states.
An astronomer actually searches for correlations,
- Planetarium shows for children are variants of two basic stories:
- Talking animals fly around the solar system.
- A family with two children goes on a journey.
The older child is always a girl, the younger, a boy.
- Planetarium clichés:
- The sunset.
- The blastoff.
- The Zeiss’s strength is to show
positions, directions, and motions.
Which way are we facing?
Where is north?
Which way is the earth turning (rotating, revolving)?
When will Mercury arrive at its greatest
Where is the
Where is the center of the galaxy?
Which way are we plowing through the cosmic microwave background?
Which way is up?
- Carl Zeiss
The company’s planetarium division is under
They are who Marc goes through for parts, service, advice, etc.
Zeiss in Thornwood deals with microscopes and other instruments.
Full-dome video: mid 2008?
There are several different manufacturers and several different systems.
Exactly which one is used is still up in the air,
since the designs keep changing and advancing.
Most of them treat the dome or dome fraction as a single image
and rendering computers put images wherever you want them.
Resolutions can be quite high:
system is six overlapping video fields,
each producing (I think)
resolution, and that is no longer the best in the world.
Off-the-shelf systems can exceed the Hayden’s in resolution and brightness.
Evans & Sutherland,
Nearby planetaria and organizations
in the dome.
- New York Hall of Science
in Flushing, Queens has a
system that projects a computer’s screen
through a fisheye lens onto a dome.
- Newark Museum,
Ocean County College,
Toms River, New Jersey
- High school planetaria in Suffern and Thiells, Rockland County
- Northeast Bronx Planetarium
- Schenectady Museum,
Schenectady, New York
- Rochester Museum and Science Center,
Rochester, New York.
seats 225 with a dome diameter of 65 feet.
Their Zeiss Mark VI comes up out of a pit,
projects 9,000 stars,
has 20 dimmable constellation outlines,
and can zoom in on
Unfortunately, it was installed in 1968 and looks like a giant ant from space,
or the dark, derelict Russian
space platform in
The cardinal point lights are permanently mounted on the walls,
like EXIT signs,
so the audience always faces the same direction (south).
Their video projector has enough resolution to display an entire
Steve Fentress, director.
- Stamford Museum &
- Vanderbilt Museum,
planetarium of the future.
has a 20-inch
has a “3-D solar system” function to view the solar system as a whole.
Not as elegant as Celestia, but with a more standard interface.
- Long Beach, Long Island
astronomy teacher with continuously updated website of current sky events.
- Man Conquers Space,
based on the
by Leslie Fish
- Nearest stars,
- Photo of
impact on the Moon.
for objects outside the Solar System
- Sky & Telescope
- Rocky Mountain
- Signs for front door
(Yonkers, New York—Latitude 41° North),
our table at
- Old-time planetarium experience!
- Live operator!
- Classic technology!
- No software!
- Fully analog!
- Manual control!
- Gears move the planets!
- Oldest continuously operated Zeiss!
- World’s Last Analog Planetarium!
- Right ascension
Vinny is working on it.
- Overtaken by the
First two by
Saturday, October 22, 2005, 2:30 p.m.
Mark is executing a series of SPICE
is in effect.
Others by Ann McDermott,
Sunday, June 11, 2006.
- looking into
1013 × 675
- looking at
1142 × 712
2272 × 1704
2272 × 1704
- Why isn’t the Zeiss
2272 × 1704
- Grandma Dot
1704 × 2272
- Sunday, December 31, 2006
- Blue Zeiss
Sunday, January 7, 2007,
2000 × 3008
line drawing from manual.
north celestial pole at the zenith,
vernal equinox on the meridian.
907 × 1031
- World’s first planetarium projector
- Montauk Observatory
Roosevelt County Park.
September 7, 2007.
- hand controller
(2272 × 1704)
When looking up
he has two S’s.
John Emory Andrus
Support for the
came from the
established in 1917 by John Emory Andrus (1841–1934).
He made his fortune buying and selling undervalued buildings and land holdings,
and manufactured pharmaceuticals in Yonkers,
where he was Mayor in 1903.
He has a
in the NYU library.
My father once gave his son a ride home (circa 1935–1940)
and found himself tipped a hundred dollars.
Speaking of making up constellations
I once read a story about a guy in the suburbs
who was having a fight with a neighbor about a tree.
The trunk was on the neighbor’s property,
but it hung out over his property and was causing some problem.
(Insect infestation, I think.)
But the neighbor refused to do anything about it.
So the guy sneaks out one night
with the intention of cutting down the tree without permission.
But he hides when the neighbor emerges from the house with his son,
and starts pointing out constellations—and they are all wrong,
(At this point, I thought it was going to turn out that the
neighbor and his family were descendants of space aliens,
living among us,
and he was telling his son the constellation names he learned as a child on
But no, it turns out the neighbor was just simple-minded and misinformed.)
The main character is moved by his neighbor’s stupidity
and tenderness toward his child,
and decides not to touch the tree;
end of story.
What the planetarium can do for you:
a response to a teacher
There are some things that can be taught with a (properly exploited)
planetarium better than with any other instructional aid.
It’s strong on
directions, motions, speeds, angles, orientations—dare we say
Which way is the earth turning?
What would happen if you walked up the earth to the North Pole
or down the earth to the equator or South Pole?
What does the sky look like from Ecuador?
How do you find
when you’re lost in the woods at night?
In the daytime, too?
Where is the plane of the
Which way does the
go around the
Which way does Sun go around the black hole at the
of the Milky Way?
Which way are we plowing through all the crud left over from the Big Bang
background microwave radiation?)
Yaw, pitch, roll—think flight simulator,
except that it seats 123 people under a 14-meter dome.
Or you can simulate lying on your back
on a gently rocking boat on the Mediterranean Sea.
Great Square of
if there were any demand for it,
we could give a mean course on
(And if the machine fell into the wrong hands,
someone could give a mean course on
Let’s get a grip on ourselves
and banish all thoughts of teaching the rudiments of
Planets: where will they be tonight, tomorrow night, next week, next
month, next year; or ten years ago?
Why do they move the way we see them moving?
motions, forshortenings, perspectives?
The big names—Copernicus,
can see how they unsnarled what we see
projected against the flat plane of the sky
and layed it out in three dimensions for us.
To teach all this stuff, you want to have the students under a dome.
In fact, you want them to be surrounded by (and ideally at the center
having many axes of motion,
and the celestial equivalents of longitude and latitude
a planetarium can do for you, and do better than anything else can.
It’s like virtual reality but without the gloves and goggles.
On the other hand,
you don’t need a planetarium to talk about
is so hot.
You don’t need a planetarium
to talk about why the surface of Venus is uncratered,
or to show the audience the dry riverbeds on
These are things that can be done just as well with a textbook
or with the Discovery Channel.
(Of course, you would want the dome back
if you had a continuous 360° movie shot by a rover bouncing across a
or a simulated fly-through of the Martian
of the Grand Canyon.)
mixed emotions I find that some of the tasks
that a planetarium is strongest at can be done more accurately
and flexibly nowadays with free software
on a cheap XP laptop.
So that is what we can offer you.
what you want your students to learn—how you want
to exploit the planetarium’s strengths during the
precious minutes that you have your students under the dome.
Then contact the
Museum and have them
tell the planetarium director
that you want a live show given by
If anyone from a newspaper, TV station, radio station, etc. calls or visits,
direct them to the PR director, Linda Locke.
Her extension and e-mail address are on the list of staff
by the phone in the planetarium.
The only exception to this is if someone wants to talk to Marc, specifically,
about some breaking news story which occurs on a weekend
(a monolith on the Moon, say.)
In that case, call Marc and give him their info—don’t just give them
his contact info.
But still, give them contact info for Linda.
If they want to talk to you, you can answer astronomical questions,
but be careful answering questions about what the museum is doing or planning.
Linda is the best person for them to talk to about that.