science cinema

The evolution of planetariums.
Part 1

From the first Zeiss system to digital planetariums
What are the typical associations to the word "planetarium"? Projection of stars? Planets? Astronomy lectures? In fact, there is much more behind this phenomenon.

In 1923 the first planetarium projection was designed by Carl Zeiss Jena company in Germany though it had been firstly offered 4 years earlier by the founder of Deutsches Museum O.Miller.
A planetarium is a scientific and educational organization in which the skydome is projected with stars and other celestial bodies such as planets, moon, comets, meteorites, the solar and lunar eclipses, the panoramas of the Moon, Venus, and the climatic belts on the Earth.
ZEISS Planetarium Model I
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In December 1923 it became available for the audience.

The optical-mechanical projection system in planetariums is a device that lets project a picture of celestial bodies on the dome and simulates their movement.

For instance, such type of planetarium could project the solar eclipse and was built for both scientific and educational purposes. The scientists of that time wrote: "Such a visual aid has never existed before. Both enlightening and magical for people. It looks like a school, theater, and cinema at the same time. A classroom is under the heavens and a show where the celestial bodies are actors ".

The smallest planetariums can project only the fixed number of stars: the Sun, Moon, planets, and nebula. The larger devices are able to demonstrate the comets and much bigger number of stars. The idea of creating a device that would be able to imitate the starry sky and planets appeared a long time ago. Thus, such device was built by Archimedes and was described in his essay. Unfortunately, neither the device nor essay had been saved.
Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, USA
At the moment, all the modern planetariums in the world are built by using digital technologies to overcome the limitations of traditional projectors. In most cases, this is a combination of optical-mechanical projectors and digital ones in the one dome. The additional systems can project twilight or, for instance, the Milky Way.

Today, there more than 5 thousand planetariums in the world. Most of them use digital technologies. Now the quality of the picture is no less than in some moderns cinema such as IMAX. That is why you can stumble upon a term "fulldome cinema". Now it is possible to manage up to 64 projectors with the help of one server. Despite the amazing quality of classic planetariums with the mixed projection system, the founders spend millions of dollars to build a dome and to buy the necessary equipment. For instance, the renovation Griffith Observatory that was ended in 2006 cost $93 million.
Despite their difference, all planetariums of the world have the common mission: they present and interpret the sight of the night sky and educate people by showing the nature of our beautiful world.
A capture from fulldome film "Bizzare Moons" available in VR Planetarium software
All planetariums cooperate with the content studios to increase repertory of the fulldome films they show to its audience. The budget that is needed for creation one film can reach up to 1.5 millions dollars. Studios establish the price themselves. It depends on the dome capacity and a number of visitors they have every year. It varies but the approximate price is about $10 000. Some of planetariums prefer to create content their own.

Despite their difference, all planetariums of the world have the common mission: they present and interpret the sight of the night sky and educate people by showing the nature of our beautiful world. But it is still not available for everyone. For example, there are 4 planetariums in China with a population of around 1.404 billion people. To reach the whole audience of the country seem pretty difficult. Some people just can't move to another region to show their kids a scientific film in planetarium.
Those reasons, among several others, have been the triggers of creation the alternative we described in the next part of the article.
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