Stars so close you can practically touch them – with planetarium technology from Carl Zeiss

Did You Know…

…that You Can Land on the Shoemaker-Levy 9 Comet with ZEISS?

Look back into outer space 15 years ago: Chunks of rock and ice go whizzing by, forcing the spaceship pilots to perform risky evasive maneuvers that practically shake the astronauts to bits. Deafening alarm sirens warn of impending collisions, and finally the nucleus of the comet fills the entire field of view of the panorama dome arching over the planetarium visitors’ heads. The engines roar one last time; billows of smoke obscure the view. This is followed by truly icy silence. With 200 passengers on board, starship “Walther Bauersfeld” has landed on the nucleus of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet.

Welcome to the future! The latest projection technology facilitates such a spectacles, even though one of the main actors is missing: Shoemaker-Levy 9 broke apart in Jupiter’s atmosphere in July 1994 and ceased to exist. This type of show is now possible thanks to the planetarium technology of ZEISS. Planetariums were originally developed to calculate the movements of the planets and stars in the heavens. At least, this was what Oskar von Miller, the founder of the Deutsches Museum in Munich, “ordered” from ZEISS. Professor Walther Bauersfeld, head engineer at ZEISS at that time, surprised his client with the pioneering concept of a projection planetarium. This made it possible to operate an independent “star theater.” The world’s first planetarium opened its doors to the public at the Deutsches Museum on 7 May 1925.

What do today’s media-saturated audiences find so fascinating about planetariums? It is the crystal-clear scenes of the cosmos made possible by the glass-fiber projection optics of ZEISS. These new possibilities for sky and planet projection are supported by powerdome, the full-dome projection system from ZEISS that directly combines the opto-mechanical projection of the night sky with digital image and video projection. Over 80 million people a year encounter ZEISS on their visits to planetariums. Is there life in outer space? Where does infinity end? These are questions that have intrigued mankind for thousands of years – and will continue to do so in the future.

April 2008