Pick a planet, any planet, and prepare to sit back and ponder just how infinitesimal your little corner of the world is compared to the rest of the Milky Way – and beyond.
Space nerds and casual fans of the occasional glance at the night sky alike will enjoy a stop at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s INTUITIVE Planetarium, which brings views of our solar system and beyond down to Earth. With daily shows and special evening offerings, no matter your age, prepare to be wowed.
“It’s visually very stunning when you walk in and all the technology that’s in that comes together to form something that makes you forget that you’re looking at a projection. When we pull up the night sky you’re thinking, ‘Wow, this is really powerful,’” said Planetarium Director David Weigel.
The 67-foot dome “employs the cutting-edge Evans & Sutherland ESX system with Digistar 6 capabilities on a new Spitz NanoSeam dome,” according to the Space & Rocket Center. That technology enables Weigel and his staff to connect to real data from telescopes all over the world, while also enabling a versatility not typically found with planetariums. Weigel is responsible for all content creation and programming, and while some of it is acquired, a lot of it is done in-house. Rocket City residents can look forward to live shows, special speakers and even musical groups.
“The technology aspect of it is incredible – it’s one of the best planetariums in the country,” Weigel said. “It’s the only 8K laser system in the country, which is exciting. What this means is we are able to, using our technology, bring in the latest and greatest discoveries astronomically, and do so immediately, as soon as they’re released to the public. We are then able to educate the public with a very visually compelling and immersive image.
“Technology is great, but just having the means to do that isn’t enough. Where we come in is we are providing a very engaging and interactive environment that is essentially tricking people into learning. The idea is to create a product that is so entertaining and so visually stunning, but then flood you with information.”
Translation: you don’t come to planetarium once every five years, there’s always something new to entertain and educate.
“It is a treat to have something like this in our backyard,” said Weigel, who noted one would have to go to a place like New York or San Francisco for a similar planetarium. “We’re very excited and we are very enthusiastic about what we are doing.”
Formerly the IMAX SpaceDome Theater, the state-of-the-art addition was made possible thanks to a partnership between INTUITIVE Research and Technology Corporation and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, who felt it was important to provide the Rocket City with a world-class planetarium.
“Growing up in the Apollo era, I remember witnessing the impossible. The idea of achieving the unimaginable has been a part of INTUITIVE’s culture since the beginning,” said Harold Brewer, co-Founder and chairman of INTUITIVE. “Our passion to succeed, coupled with advancements in technology, enables us to reach great heights almost every single day – much like those in the Apollo program. Whether it’s using immersive virtual reality to make discoveries in the medical field or collaborating with your team from across the country on new weapons systems designs, there isn’t much we can’t do! We are dedicated to bringing advanced technologies, like the planetarium, to North Alabama in hopes of inspiring the future workforce to think big – and always strive to solve the hard problems.”
Planetarium tickets are sold separately from museum tickets. For more information visit rocketcenter.com/INTUITIVEPlanetarium.