When you think of New Jersey, you probably think of popular summer shorelines, Atlantic City casinos, and The Sopranos. However, the Garden State is looking to make an addition to its list of attributes — one of astronomical proportions. On December 9, 2017, New Jersey becomes home to the largest, most high-tech planetarium in the Western Hemisphere.
The Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey, recently completed a mass overhaul of their IMAX Dome Theater, turning it into an extensive, technologically advanced planetarium. There are only three in the world larger than the new Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, one being located in China and two in Japan.
The planetarium is named after New Jersey philanthropist and LSC Board Member, Jennifer Chalsty, whose $5 million donation to LSC made its creation possible. The donation helped to completely renovate the IMAX Dome Theater, which meant replacing the screen, swapping film for digital, refurbishing the interior, and providing all the technology needed to carry out planetarium functions.
The dome stretches to a height of 60 feet (18 meters) and has a diameter of 89 feet (27 meters), with the focal point of the planetarium, of course, being its screen. The 10-projector system displays 12,345 square feet (1,145 square meters) of imagery, with an 8K resolution made up of 88 million pixels. Even though the naked eye is only capable of detecting around 10 million colors, the planetarium’s lighting system has the power to generate more than 281 trillion different colors, making for vivid galactic displays. The updated specs will also be used to show visualizations of breaking planetary news.
“You can fit any other planetarium in the Western Hemisphere inside the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium,” said Paul Hoffman, LSC’s President and CEO, in a press release. “Add in the state-of-the-art technology and you have a spectacular unique theater like none other in the world. Visitors will be able to fly through the universe, experience the grandness and vastness of space, roam planetary surfaces, navigate asteroid fields, and watch the latest full-dome movies.”
For the planetarium’s opening day, LSC has teamed up with the Space Telescope Science Institute to give patrons a never before seen look at its Orion Nebula recreation. Created using data from the Hubble Space Telescope, the 3-D nebula won’t officially be released until January 2018 at the American Astronomy Society in Washington DC. However, opening day visitors will get a preliminary look at the model in a vibrant, high-resolution experience.
In addition to the new planetarium, LSC’s 300,000-square-foot (91,440-square-meters) complex features 110 species of live animals, aquariums, a 3-D theater, and 12 exhibit halls designed to educate and entertain people of all ages. Currently drawing in over 650,000 visitors annually, LSC hopes that the addition of the extraordinary planetarium will make it a must-see destination for all.
So, ten or so years from now, will we be adding “science-hub” to the list of New Jersey’s notable attributes? Only time will tell.