Tune in from home for an epic exploration of Chile's mountaintop observatories
SAN FRANCISCO (September 21) - On September 26, celebrate Astronomy Day by transforming your phone, tablet, desktop computer, or VR headset into a planetarium and joining a 360° livestream of Big Astronomy: People, Places, Discoveries. This breathtaking new show transports viewers to 16,000 feet in Chile to witness remote observatories that never sleep. The virtual world premiere launches at noon PT on YouTube with a Spanish language screening to follow at 2 pm PT. Additional English language screenings will be offered at 5 pm and 7 pm PT.
“Given these unprecedented times, we are inviting audiences from around the world to enjoy Big Astronomy from the comfort of their own homes,” says Ryan Wyatt, Senior Director of Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization at the California Academy of Sciences. “Due to COVID-19, the Academy’s Morrison Planetarium is temporarily closed along with many of our sister institutions. So we decided to take people to a virtual Morrison Planetarium, sharing the show as an immersive 360° experience—and allowing anyone with an internet connection to tune in.”
To make the most of your 360° experience, don your VR headset or grab your phone, tablet, or desktop computer to zoom in, out, and all around the star-studded screen. Following the world premiere, the Academy’s Science Visualization Studio will share behind-the-scenes insights from producing the show—ask them your questions in real-time via the YouTube chat. Can’t join the premiere? Beginning September 30, viewers can catch the show every Wednesday at 11:30 am PT until the Morrison Planetarium reopens to the public.
Big Astronomy transports viewers to Chile’s rugged mountains and Atacama Desert where dry, stable air and dark, nighttime skies create clear conditions for observing the Universe. The show spotlights three world-class observatories—funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF)—with giant telescopes that allow astronomers to peer into space. Big Astronomy highlights how these observatories have advanced our understanding of planetary formation, but Chile’s contributions extend across all branches of astronomy and astrophysics. By 2022, nearly 70% of the world’s astronomy infrastructure will be based here thanks to recent investments from international partners.
“When people think of astronomy they often imagine astronomers peering through telescopes,” says AUI President and Big Astronomy partner Adam Cohen. “They are unaware of the STEM village it takes to make exploration of the cosmos possible.” Big Astronomy highlights an inspiring cast of personnel from astronomers and engineers to technicians and support staff who keep these mega-machines running smoothly.
“Big Astronomy shows young viewers how they can take part in amazing science discoveries without necessarily becoming a PhD astronomer,” says Tim Spuck, AUI Director of Education and Public Engagement and Principal Investigator for Big Astronomy. “We want audiences to connect the people they see on screen with someone they know or hope to become one day.”
In addition to the show, the Big Astronomy experience also includes an educator guide, a series of accompanying short videos, and a toolkit featuring hands-on activities for learners of all ages. And over the next two years, a series of live virtual events will be offered that feature an array of personnel from the facilities. On October 8 at 7 pm PT, tune in to the Academy’s NightSchool for another chance to meet the talented production team responsible for bringing Big Astronomy to life.
Visit bigastronomy.org for behind-the-scenes footage, hands-on activities, and more.
Big Astronomy is a collaboration between Abrams Planetarium at MSU, Associated Universities Inc. (AUI), Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), California Academy of Sciences, Peoria Riverfront Museum, Ward Beecher Planetarium at YSU, Atacama Large Millimeter-submillimeter Array (ALMA), Vera C. Rubin Observatory construction project, NSF’s NOIRLab facilities Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) and the international Gemini Observatory. Big Astronomy is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (Award #: 1811436).
The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution dedicated to exploring, explaining, and sustaining life. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in scientific research and education—all under one living roof. When opened, our hours are 9:30 am - 5:00 pm Monday - Saturday, and 11:00 am - 5:00 pm on Sunday. Admission includes all exhibits, programs, and shows. Please note that in response to the latest guidelines and information from local and state public health authorities, the Academy will be temporarily closed to the public. For reopening information and daily ticket prices, please visit www.calacademy.org or call (415) 379-8000 for more information.
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