As we zoomed into the Crab Nebula, surrounded by a rainbow of
space dust and stars, hands shot into the air, reaching out to
touch new corners of the universe.
We had started in Yosemite Valley, with a tour of a true dark
night sky and were transported hundreds of years back in time to an
ancient observatory in India before looking up and out into the
Cosmic Wonder show at Chicago's
Adler Planetarium takes visitors deep into space, no
astronaut training required. Hosted by an Adler expert engaging
viewers throughout the show, Cosmic Wonder tells the story of how
natural human curiosity and wonder have led to detailed observation
and incredible discoveries of the cosmos.
Sixth-graders from Frank W. Riley Elementary School had the
opportunity to preview Cosmic Wonder early and said they were
inspired by the show.
"It makes you want to discover more of the galaxy's secrets,"
says student Alberto Sanchez.
The show is presented in ultra-high definition, which basically
just means you feel like you're watching a 3D movie without wearing
those plastic glasses. The students admitted to trying to reach out
and grab the stars in the nebula the show features.
"I liked how you saw it all like you were actually there. It was
amazing," says Kate Mayancela, another Frank W. Riley student.
Adler President Michelle Larson said the
planetarium hopes the sense of curiosity and excitement that kids
had after Cosmic Wonder will spread to their parents and
"One of the things that is terrific about kids is that their
sense of wonder is unbridled. They wonder about everything and we
at Adler want to bring that back to the whole family," Larson
Larson hopes the conversation will follow them on the drive or
train ride home, and into their daily lives.
"When you come here, you can observe and discover the universe
but when you go home, what else can you observe and discover?"
The show references Chicago a handful of times, something Larson
describes as a conscious decision by the Adler team to keep things
"Watching [kids] build that perspective that we are a ball in
space, it's important to anchor it so that you don't get lost in
the vastness and think that it's unimportant or unrelated. Why
might we want to explore space? Well, because we live in it. It's
actually our neighborhood," Larson says.
In celebration of the new show, the planetarium is launching
100 Days of Wonder, a summer program that kicks off May 16 at
Adler After Dark. 100 Days of Wonder will feature daily activities,
exhibitions and a new citizen
science project: Space Warps.
Stuart Lynn, a member of the Citizen Science Department at
Adler, says the projects they build are meant to help engage people
in scientific discoveries after they leave the planetarium.
"We're asking for people's help in finding what we call
gravitational lenses, or space warps. These are really cool but
really rare things in the sky," Lynn says.
When people log onto SpaceWarps.org,
they'll be given a patch of the sky to analyze. According to Lynn,
there are millions of these patches that need to be combed
"What's great about that is ... you're probably the first person
to see that patch of sky, like no human eye has probably looked at
that patch before," Lynn says.
After the citizen scientist identifies a space warp, the
discoveries go into a database to be analyzed by experts.
Cosmic Wonder opens to the public May 17 and runs through April
1, 2014. Admission to Cosmic Wonder is included in the Premium Pass
($28 for adults, $22 for children). Tickets can be purchased at alderpanetarium.org.
Alaina is the digital content editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Chicago.
See more of Alaina's stories here.
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