Monday, September 30, 2013

Montreal's Revamped Planetarium Worth a Visit

Just because your dad teaches physics and writes science articles as a hobby doesn't necessarily mean that he will take you on a field trip to a planetarium - but it certainly does increase the odds.  I took my four-year-old to Montreal's relocated Planetarium this past weekend and would recommend it to others.

The Montreal Planetarium is not a full-sized museum.  It features two theatres, both with giant domed projection screens in place of a ceiling.  In the "Chaos Theatre," audience members are invited to lie horizontally on bean-bag chairs.  There, we watched the twenty minute presentation entitled 'Continuum', which is an artistic and immersing experience where the audience is taken through the cosmos with a loud and soaring score (think Fantasia on speed).  There is no voice-over commentary, just music and stunning visuals.  So powerful was the presentation that it scared my daughter a bit (it is recommended for seven and older).

At the second theater (the Milky Way Theater), we enjoyed a more relaxed, more conventional journey through space with a live guide describing the sights (40 minutes).  The first half is an introduction to the night sky as it would be seen if there were no light pollution.  The second half is a tour of our solar system, our galaxy, and our local part of the universe.  Unlike 'Continuum', this presentation contained only real images as recorded by telescopes.  My daughter preferred this quieter trip through space.

Other than these theaters, there are a handful of interactive space and biological science-based activities, which one can peruse in about a half an hour.  Like most children at the venue, my daughter was drawn to the dinosaur skull.

All in all, we spent two hours there, and dollar for dollar it puts a typical trip to the cinema to shame.  The adult price was $15 ($13 for CAA members) and my four-year-old was free.

The theaters and exhibits were less than half full on Sunday afternoon.  Each empty seat that I looked at represented to me a lost opportunity to see the world from a unique perspective.  Even if you frequent exhibits of this kind from time to time, it never hurts to be reminded of the endless beauty that fills our universe, and our privileged place within it.

I am often fascinated by the diverse feelings a journey through our universe brings out in people.  Some are reminded of how small we are, and are overwhelmed by our insignificance both as a race and as individuals.  When I see our spiral galaxy from a distance, I feel a sense of calm and wonder.  I am calm because if the world out there is that big, then my problems at any time must be small - they must be surmountable.  And how can one not feel a deep sense of wonder as one stares out at the hundreds of billions of stars that compose the Milky Way?

To calm and wonder, I would add thankfulness.  I am thankful not only to exist, but to exist in a time when such images of the world I inhabit are available to me - and for just thirteen bucks! 

My young daughter could not quite wrap her head around the scale of what we were seeing, but whom among us truly can?           

1 comment:

Richard Mark said...


I was just passing by, since I remembered I needed to write a "reader's response" to an article, when I came across this article.

First, thanks for the article,and shouldn't you put a rating as well?
A ten point rating on. 1. Visual 2. Information given 3. Materials presented.

In any case, I was actually planning on going myself, however never really found the opportunity.

Last I planned to go was when it was free, however then line was un-freaking-believable.

I do plan to go one day, whenever that may be, but would prefer if they had a telescope which the general public can use. I know our school has a telescope, nothing grandiose I assume, however seems that it's only usable by the students in the Astronomy classes, a little sad.

Out of the many branches of physics, Astronomy was one of which I wanted to pursue, due to the amazing speeches by Neil degrasse Tyson .