Under the direction of the Mexican architectural partnership Legorreta + Legorreta, assisted by the experienced local firm Gideon Toal, the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History was demolished and then completely reconstructed.
Within, the new Noble Planetarium has been transformed into a state-of-the-art facility with removable bench seating for 100 people, a Zeiss ZKP4 star projector and SPACEGATE Quinto full-dome video projection system controlled by powerdome. This means visitors can now view the bright and natural stars from the optical/mechanical projector along with full-dome video from the SPACEGATE as one complete system.
Working alongside Gideon Toal, England-based Visual Acuity provided architectural design guidance and technology planning from the project’s inception, including advice on audio, video, and cabled infrastructure for the Planetarium itself and its associated pre-show area, where four large screens will show guests up-to-the-second views of the sun piped in live via microwave dishes and fiber networks from a nearby solar observatory, and a computer rack room with support systems for the pre-show area and the Planetarium.
“As part of the rebirth of the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History, the client wanted the Planetarium to be equipped with the very latest A/V and IT systems while retaining its tradition of live presentations and interactive astronomy education," said Mark Matthews, lead consultant at Visual Acuity. "We worked very closely with the planetarium team to ensure that their requirements were translated into architectural, construction and technical requirements that would deliver the best platform for what the team of astronomy professionals do. The Museum already has a successful Omnimax theater and the last thing they wanted was a system that just played automated canned shows. The system can and does play automated canned shows, but has been optimized for live presentations. Design considerations included the ability for presenters to walk among the audience, easily accessible storage space for prop carts and the console being at the front of the planetarium.”
The live presentations show the Texas sky and begin with the Zeiss ZKP-4 star projector showing a very realistic view of the sky over Fort Worth. Various constellations are discussed with the myths and folk lore from around the world that surrounds the constellation images. The presenter then looks at which planets will be visible that night and how to find them in the sky. Then the audience are taken away from Earth’s surface to go and visit the planets that they have just discussed and see them up close before flying out of the solar system and looking at the far reaching influences of our sun, our galaxy and as far away as scientists have been able to measure to the edge of Cosmic Microwave Background. At the end of the shows, audiences are given practical advice on how they can place red balloons over their flash lights to prevent destroying their night vision, some useful star charts that can be downloaded for free to assist in their own backyard astronomy and other useful tips to encourage the family audiences.