I went to the Planetarium over the weekend.
My previous visit to the star-spangled dome was during a school outing+ and I recall quite vividly the sense of awe I felt – as if I was entering a hi-tech cathedral. There was a definite aspect of the sacred to this quiet space with its muted lighting, arcane equipment and plush Starship Enterprise seats. Of course, a major contributing factor to the religious tone of the place was probably the threat of dire retribution should anyone dare misbehave.
Much has changed. The machinery and seats are still original equipment (and really beginning to show their age), but the entranced hush of the audience is definitely a thing of the past. To kids who have grown up in a world of Playstations, the Planetarium can’t rate much higher than a moth-eaten fedora. The majority of youngsters attending the show were more focussed on their conversations than the constellations. It seems likely that many of them were there not so much out of an interest in the night sky, but because Mom Said So. The resident astronomer had a torrid time of it trying to make himself heard over the dull roar.
Nevertheless, my companion and I still managed to enjoy the experience. It was cheesy, but in a good way – kind of reminiscent of the decayed and outdated charm of the funfair (but without the ever-present scent of pony dung).
+ In other words, it was some time towards the end of the Cretaceous Period