More than a year after the old Dow Planetarium closed it’s doors, the new Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium opened this month. Having been an astronomy fan all my life, I couldn’t wait to explore it. I posted it as a MEETin event and a number of people were interested in attending. Several dropped out due for a variety of reasons, one of which was because the Planetarium was BUSY. The website advises visitors to buy tickets online and they are not kidding. The 2:30pm show was sold out well in advance and one member hadn’t bought her ticket so she bid her farewell and enjoyed the beautiful spring afternoon outdoors.
|Planetarium with the Biodome (left) and Olympic Stadium (background)|
A friend and I had bought our tickets in advance, so we explored the interactive exhibits on meteorites and life in the universe before getting in line for the first show. Before entering Continuum, the staff give you a bag so you can take off your shoes for a really immersive experience. While it’s not mandatory, I recommend giving it a try. If you are near the front of the line, you also have the option of watching the show from really comfortable bean bag chairs. The graphics and music are amazing as you are taken on a journey from your back yard, through the universe and to the beginning of life. It is hard to describe – you will just have to see it.
The next show, From The Earth To The Stars, is a more traditional Planetarium show where a charming narrator acquaints you with the stars currently in the sky above Montreal and then takes you through the solar system, galaxy and universe. The graphics from the new projector were fantastic.
As great as the shows and exhibits were, the highlight of the visit for me was looking through a solar telescope set up outside the entrance.
|One of those rare moments where I’m in front of the camera|
I was even allowed to put my camera up to the telescope and take a picture of the sun. You can see the solar flares on the edge of the sun. If you look closely, you can also see a sun spot (a slightly dark spot) in the lower half near the middle. That sun spot is about the size of the Earth.
|Our sun through a solar telescope|
I definitely recommend checking out the new Planetarium. Just remember to get your tickets in advance. You can get regular and Quebec resident tickets online. Student and Access Montreal discounts are only available at the Planetarium, so arrive early. The early morning shows were not sold out.