Mobile Planetariums Bring the Stars to You

Group of children gazing up at a planetarium ceiling full of stars.
Credit: Adobe Stock

In the United States, only 1 child in 5 has seen the Milky Way. With the growth of outdoor lighting, light pollution has hidden the night to the point where most of us have never seen a truly dark sky. While many can experience the heavens through science museums and planetariums, access to these resources is limited.

Part of the mission of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is to provide innovative and immersive learning about astronomy to students. The visitor center at the Very Large Array, for example, has a wealth of educational resources. But one thing that’s missing is a way to give children an immersive astronomical experience. That is why we propose obtaining a mobile planetarium.

While building a planetarium at the VLA visitor center would be cost-prohibitive, a mobile planetarium system is more economical. It’s based upon an inflatable dome 6 meters across and capable of hosting 38 students at a time. Like a regular planetarium, a mobile planetarium can provide both realistic images of the night sky and 360-degree video to immerse students in learning experiences. The projection system can display 4K videos in both standard and dome formats.  It is an excellent way for students to experience the awe and wonder of the night sky. As a mobile system, the planetarium could also be used in local schools and at other NRAO locations. As such, it would provide a particularly valuable learning experience for classrooms in remote rural areas.

To join our campaign for a mobile planetarium, Become a VLA Member! Join before June 30 and 100% of your membership will directly support the planetarium.

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