5 reasons to visit the reopened National Planetarium

Ivy Jean Vibar, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 26 2017 10:37 AM

Photo by Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – Starting this weekend, visitors to the National Planetarium in Manila can enjoy full-dome shows, which will be offered free of charge until April 30.

The shows are a first for the National Planetarium, as it only recently installed an upgraded version of its 1975 analog projector, as well as a new digital system, both developed by a Japanese company. It’s a pioneering system, combining the old and the new.

The National Planetarium’s initial offerings were chosen for the enjoyment of the young and old alike, so whole families can visit and enjoy the programs while they are free. Students from nearby schools have also flocked there since the Planetarium’s public opening this week.

The first of 5 daily shows will be at 9 a.m. and the last at 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. On Sundays, there will only be 2 shows, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Still on the fence whether the National Planetarium is worth a visit? Here are a few highlights of what you can find there.

1. Pioneering technology

Photo by Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The new hybrid projection system integrating the 1975 analog projector with a digital projector is a pioneering innovation. Partly born out of necessity, it was created with an appreciation for the old, which should not come as a surprise considering that National Museum personnel run the National Planetarium.

According to Ma. Belen Pabunan, the National Museum’s chief administrative officer, and officer in charge of the Planetarium, they were faced with 2 choices—to buy a new full-dome projector and spend P80 million, or go with a hybrid system for P30 million.

The full-dome projector was too expensive, so they went with the second choice. It turned out to be the right one, because the hybrid system showed a clearer picture than the purely digital system.

“First time ito sa Philippines, and I think first time sa Asia...Ang GOTO INC., yung nag-install ng old and new one, first time din nilang mag-experiment ng ganito. Wala pa silang ginawang ganito sa Japan,” Pabunan said.

2 – Fall into the stars

Photo by Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The Planetarium’s dome makes for an experience that can almost mimic a virtual reality or 3D cinema viewing experience, without any need for special glasses or headgear. The dome and the animation in the films, plus the slight tilt to your chair can make you believe that you are falling upwards into vastness of space.

The 3 shows offer a journey into space—“A Planet for Goldilocks” is the story of humankind’s search for a planet which would be “just right” to support life, while “Hayabusa Back to the Earth” shows the journey of a Japanese space probe carrying samples of material vital in unlocking the secrets of the solar system. “Journey to a Billion Suns” looks at the works of astronomers, from the star maps of the first scientists to the evolution of the Solar System.

3 – There is no age limit to learning

Anyone from children to grandfathers can learn new things from the Planetarium shows. As Planetarium first-timer Antonio Porcioncula said, he now has a lot of stories to tell his neighbors and nephews. Though a resident of Manila, he never went to the Planetarium, not even to take his daughter there for a visit.

Even a 73-year-old like himself can learn a lot, he said, and wonders why he thought that the Planetarium was only for kids.

“Seventy-three na ako, gusto kong pumunta dito kasi first time ko. Ganun pala yun, lalong lalo na iyong space ship. Mapuputol pala isa-isa. Iyong mga naiiwan..nagiging junk na lang sa earth,” he said.

4 – It can help nurture interest in astronomy

The country needs astronomers—especially females, as apparently there are only four women astronomers in the country, said Pabunan. If your child has an interest in stars and galaxies, you might want to take them to one of the country’s only exhibits dedicated to astronomy.

“Kung pupunta sila dito, more educational, ito ang hinahanap ng mga bata. Parang part of the classroom lessons, dito na rin nila makikita ang kasagutan sa mga tanong ng mga teachers nila sa astronomy and general science,” said Pabunan.

5 – Admission is free—for now

Photo by Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Visitors can watch the full-dome shows free of charge until the end of April, but the Planetarium might soon charge for the privilege, to make up for the cost of repairing, upgrading, and purchasing the projectors. National Museum officers have yet to meet on the new pricing as of this writing.