Sunday, March 22, 2009

Almost as Nice as Seeing Stars in Little Girls' Eyes...

... is having the wherewithal to put them there.

Setting up a little planetarium show for the girls, Sunday, March 22nd, 2009.
Please, PLEASE, click on the images to see larger, better versions.

This past weekend was one of those on which Ft. Harrington was blessed by a visit from some of our East Bay family. Adam and Lynda brought Grace-the-Granddaughter and her friend Scout down on Saturday and stayed in Boulder Creek until early Sunday afternoon. We figured that Grace and Scout are old enough now to enjoy a session in Granddad's planetarium, so we arranged a private time in the facility for them and other family and close friends. The planetarium is on the route back from Boulder Creek to the East Bay, so it was a convenient place for several of our friends and family to meet on Sunday afternoon.

Saturday evening: "Yes, Emma, you may kiss my hand." Grace now thoroughly understands the special relationship Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have with young humans.

Saturday evening: Grace's friend, Scout, absolutely radiates joy. (She evidently has also radiated away her incisors recently.) Here, she cavorts with the usually-elegant Alnitak. (Guinness, at lower-right, displays the only highly-reflective part of his now-adult body.)

On Sunday morning, I trekked down from Boulder Creek to the planetarium ahead of everyone else, giving myself time to set some things up -- including the above welcoming projection on the dome's simulated daytime sky...

... and it was a big hit with the girls!

Sherwood's workstation.

In addition to Adam, Lynda, Grace, Scout, Diane, and me, a number of other close friends and family joined us in the Planetarium (including Scout's Mom, Dad, and brother, and Grace's mom). My great good friend Paul, the only other full-time astronomy teacher at my college, joined us, too, giving up a good chunk of his rare free time to play with the Harringtons. So, of course, I put him to work.

I still don't have the expertise necessary to photograph planetarium shows as they unfold -- and, actually, I wouldn't have had time to do it anyway. But here's a short rundown of what we did and saw in the Magic Chamber:

Part I: We used the digital planetarium system (data housed in a bank of ten quad-core pc's) to fly around the Solar System. Particular points of visitation included Earth, the Moon, Mars (and Phobos), and Jupiter (and Io.) [*]

Part II: We used the spectacular Konica-Minolta Infinium-S new-generation optical-mechanical star projector (the blue ball in two of the above photos) to tour the nighttime sky as it would be after dark this evening in Northern California, urging everyone to go outside tonight and see it in the best planetarium of all: the real sky. Paul guided this part of the program with his typical good humor and expertise -- despite the fact that I hadn't warned him ahead of time that he'd be doing it!

Part III: We used the Planetarium's digital system to screen a short hemispherical-projection, immersive animation about what it takes to be an astronaut.

I'll depend on Adam to tell you in comments about whether or not everybody enjoyed the show. Meanwhile, I'll let the smiles in the next photo -- taken after we were done -- give you a little clue!

Most of our guests had left by the time this was taken, but we got most of the family members in! Front: Grace and Scout. Lynda is kneeling behind Scout. Back row: Scout's mom, Robin, rests her hand on Scout's brother Turtle's shoulder, two of Scout's neighbors (whose names I didn't write down!), Grace's mom Adrianne, Adam, me, Diane.

(Lucile, Ryan, Christel, and Casey: sorry you couldn't come! But there will be plenty of chances for a next time.)


[* Because there have been requests for it, here's the playlist of the music I used for the Solar System flyaround segments:

Introduction (instrumental): Pastures New by Nickel Creek (Album: "Nickel Creek")
... and a HUGE shout-out to Dann Todd for turning me on to Nickel Creek!
To the Moon and back: Standing on the Moon by the Grateful Dead (Album: "Built to Last")
Out to 30AU: Reasons Why by Nickel Creek (Album: "Nickel Creek")
Mars: Boadicea by Enya (Album: "Paint the Sky")
Jupiter: Mo Ghile Mear by the Chieftains with Sting (Album: "The Essential Chieftains")
Jupiter back to Earth and to California: Heartland by Celtic Thunder (Album: "Celtic Thunder: Act Two")]



Mike said...

One time I read the newspaper to my granddaughter ...

ronnie said...

LOL! You're a tough act to follow, Sherwood.

Just be grateful, Mike, that he isn't the other granddad to YOUR grandkids. (Of course, I'm pretty sure having a couple of Rhodesian Ridgebacks never hurts kid-wise.)

Sherwood, your workstation is teh awesome!

What a nice thing to do and it looks like so much fun!

Adam said...

And I quote: "Can we do it again! Can we do it again?!!"

You are a rock star Dad. Paul too. I hope, someday, some of my fellow SherFans get a chance to experience what we lucky few did on Sunday. "Thank you Dad/Granddad/Sherwood" just don't seem to cut it.

Eat your heart out IMAX.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Yeah, Mike. But you can't curl up on a couch with a granddaughter and a cup of hot cocoa and do a planetarium show. You also can't do a planetarium show every day without it going stale.

ronnie, Grace's maternal grandfather plays guitar in a rock-n-roll band on the weekends. He would be the tough act to follow. Literally.

Adam, I'm glad you enjoyed this experience in a planetarium more than almost getting your finger cut off in that other one.

Adam said...

And I'm glad you still have eardrums.

Yeah, the planetarium show might get a little tired....... after about a thousand go-rounnds, or so.

Dann said...

Thanks for the shout out, Sherwood. I'm really glad that you enjoy Nickel Creek that much.

But now I'm sorry that the front page of my blog is so politicky. I've got other stuff waiting in the wings...a future pun....but haven't posted it.


Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

O boy, another playlist to put together! This sounds like the coolest show ever, and i too am awed by that workstation! I bet you actually understand all those buttons and switches.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Um. Yeah, Ruth, of course I do. Exactly. Right.

The planetarium's technical director, the marvelous and remakable Karl von Ahnen, is right now, as I type and as you read, laughing hysterically and crying with grievous distress at the same time.

Sure, I know what all the controls do. They make Karl turn purple, each and every time I push them.