Monday, July 11, 2011

McMaster Astronomy Outreach

Last Wednesday, I drove up to McMaster University and had a tour of their 3D visualization lecture theatre and planetarium. The reasons were three-fold: 1) to get in contact with people doing astronomy/physics outreach at McMaster, 2) to see what they're doing in terms of outreach, and 3) to get some ideas for potential programs here.

The 3D lecture theatre was very cool. It's just a "regular" theatre-style lecture hall but, in addition to the regular projector, they have a two-projector system that can create 3D images. They have a special screen that keeps the polarity of the projections, and audiences wear linearly polarized glasses. Anyone on campus can use the theatre, so it is not an astronomy-only facility.

The Origins Institute at McMaster acquired 3D movies and images from the Swinburne University of Technologies’ Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing. They chose various movies and images to create an hour-long presentation to give to the public, entitled Extreme Alien Worlds: A 3D Voyage Through and Beyond Our Solar System.

I was able to attend a practice session, and it was fascinating. The 3D movies and images were amazing, and I could see how the public would really enjoy the "show". If you're ever in the Hamilton area, I suggest you get tickets!

I also had a short tour of their planetarium, which is in the basement of one of the buildings (weird, eh?). It's a small planetarium - seating about 35 people - but they have recently upgraded their system to a digital projector and they can do some really cool stuff. They offer a variety of different shows, from how the night sky is viewed in different cultures to how accurate astronomy is portrayed in the movies. Again, if you're in the area, I definitely recommend taking in a show.

Next month I'll be visiting the outreach facilities at the University of Toronto and the Dunlap Institute, so I'll be sure to write a similar post about the programs they offer.