Universe awaits in planetarium at Texas Museum of Science & Technology

Tuesday, I stepped inside the new planetarium at the Texas Museum of Science & Technology. The new FullDome.Pro planetarium was built over four days last month and is now showing star shows and other shows every hour at the museum in Cedar Park. You can read more about the museum and the planetarium on austin360.com/raisingaustin.

It’s a more intimate experience than a larger planetarium, but this planetarium is high tech, allowing the controller to zoom into a trench on Mars that stretches the longer than the width of the United States. We also can watch the two moons of Mars orbiting in real time. We can look at the weather on Earth in the last 10 days and pick a date and time to view the night sky and its many constellations.

The software also allows the museum to update new photos of space and Earth as NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration release them. So, if there was a hurricane that was happening, we could watch it develop. Or if there’s a new image of Pluto, we can see it.

This dome is the first in the United States from FullDome.Pro and others museums will be coming to Cedar Park to see it.

The planetarium is still tweaking its programming and set up. Chairs that lean back are difficult to control and will be replaced with others that are not as difficult and can support more weight. The operators are also tweaking how much tilt and twirl and zooming they bring into the star shows because all that movement could lead to motion sickness.

Still, if you haven’t seen the universe through a planetarium lately, this new dome a great place to start. You really feel like you are flying.

In other museum news, the “Body Worlds & The Cycle of Life” exhibit is closing Nov. 6. Then the museum will install 30 new installations from the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Those will stay three years and cover three areas of science: Light and vision; mechanical and electrical; and music and sound. Those exhibits are scheduled to open Nov. 14.

The museum is also trying to raise more funds through Austin-based Great Feats and a challenge similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS. You can challenge your friends to donate or to do something inventive with Diet Coke and Mentos. Twenty-two people have taken the challenge so far and raised $15,000. Find it at greatfeats.com/c/txmost-fizz.

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