While it might be too chilly to do any outdoor stargazing, solar system enthusiasts of all ages can marvel at the wonders of the universe from the indoor comfort of the newly renovated, state-of-the-art Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium at Liberty Science Center. The Jersey City–based educational center celebrated the grand opening of its latest and greatest addition—which happens to be the largest and most technologically advanced planetarium in the entire Western Hemisphere—on Saturday, December 9.
The Planetarium's footprint is the largest in the Western Hemisphere.
Ensuring an out-of-this-world experience for visitors, the planetarium features a dome with a diameter of 89 feet. In case you're struggling to picture that, LSC provides a little perspective: If you were able to draw a straight line from one end of the dome to the other, it would measure 1.5 times the length of a bowling alley lane. Another fun fact that illustrates the sheer enormity of this haven for space fans: From the top of the dome to the bottom of the theater measures 60 feet, which is equal to the height of four giraffes.
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In Wonders of the Night Sky, viewers can experience a high-definition recreation of the Orion Nebula.
Thanks to the dome's wraparound screen and brand-new digital projection system, families will thrill at the chance to view true 8K projection, with lights that produce trillions of colors.
"Visitors will be able to fly through the universe, experience the grandness and vastness of space, roam planetary surfaces, navigate asteroid fields, and watch the latest full-dome movies," Paul Hoffman, LSC's president and CEO, noted in a press release.
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Journey Through the Solar System incorporates the latest information gathered by a fleet of robot probes.
As educational as it is entertaining, the advanced software allows for downloads of the latest animations and images from NASA, keeping aspiring astronomers up-to-date with breaking space developments. Current planetarium shows include: Wonders of the Night Sky and To Worlds Beyond: Journey Through the Solar System + Live Show. Coming up December 26–31 is One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventure, in which Big Bird and friends learn about the Big Dipper, the North Star, the sun, and the moon.
The dome also plays host to a series of films and laser shows, including the seasonal Laser Wonderland, playing through December 24.
The planetarium, which is out-sized only by those in Beijing, China, and Nagoya and Niihama, Japan, is named for the New Jersey philanthropist and LSC board member who made it all possible. Jennifer Chalsty's donation of $5 million provided for the conversion of the IMAX Dome Theater from film to digital; the addition of software and hardware required to allow the theater to also serve as a planetarium; the screen's replacement; and the renovation of the whole space.
To plan your visit (including info on tickets, membership, hours, and other exhibits), please visit Liberty Science Center's website or call 201-200-1000.
All photos courtesy of Liberty Science Center