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Thursday, September 24, 2009

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A fascinating space show, Journey to the Stars opens this Saturday at Morrison Planetarium just in time for the California Academy of Sciences’ first year anniversary. A beacon of rational thinking and reality-based worldview, and therefore, perhaps, the most important educational institution in town, the Academy once again demonstrated is amazing capability of delivering complex ideas in an entertaining format, better suitable for children of all ages. Thanks to the high tech all-digital planetarium’s 75-footdiameter dome served by six projectors, a flight to the remote galaxies and back in time, 13 billion years into the past when the first stars were born, creates a full-immersion experience up to a slight vertigo induced by the speed and sheer volume of the on-screen movement. Supernova explosions, the formation and current activity of the Sun, and mind-boggling transformations of the celestial bodies are framed by stunning time-lapse footage of San Francisco Bay and its spectacular sunrise/sunset. An inherent connection between humanity and the stars is brilliantly presented in the show narrative by a short remark that a human body contains a teaspoon’s worth of stardust formed 13 billion years ago. Developed by the American Museum of Natural History, New York in collaboration with the Academy, as well as GOTO INC., Tokyo, Japan; Papalote Museo del Niño, Mexico City, Mexico; and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C., the show was created with the support and partnership of NASA, Science Mission Directorate, Heliophysics Division, and narrated by Whoopi Goldberg. The show will run for a full year, several times daily. In addition, the Academy’s Benjamin Dean Astronomy Lectures in early 2010 will give audiences a chance to meet the scientists who worked with Journey’s production team. Speakers will include Dr. Ben Oppenheimer, astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History and curator for the show
(January); Dr. Tom Abel, professor at Stanford University who contributed data and visualizations (February); and Dr. Alan Title, solar physicist at Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center (March). Check for lecture details. California Academy of Sciences is located in Golden Gate Park, Concourse Drive, San Francisco. 415-379-8000. Image: 3-D recreation of the Helix Nebula, formed from the remains of a star at the end of its life, based on Hubble Telescope observations. © American Museum of Natural History.


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