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08 March 2006

London's children say goodbye to the stars

The London Planetarium will soon
replace its popular 10-minute program,
"Journey to Infinity," with shows about
movie and sports personalities.
(photo: Robin Scagell /

You can learn about the planets, stars, moons, comets, meteors, asteroids, black holes, galaxies and the entire universe at a good planetarium. It's particularly valuable for city kids who don't have much access to clear night skies.

It's a straight shot via a child's imagination from one afternoon in a dark planetarium to a career as an astronomer or an astronaut.

You can see wax figures of Elton John, Britney Spears, Michael Jackson and Madonna at Madame Tussauds.

What would you like to spend $1000 or $5000 on? Check out the dreamiest ads, thousands of them, in Sky and Telescope. On a clear night you can see Vleeptron or Neverland twinkling in the sky through one of these marvelous things. You can see the Great Red Spot of Jupiter, and Jupiter's moons. I saw Halley's Comet through one of these things.

You can get them cheaper; Russia makes top-quality telescopes, but since the fall of the Soviet Union they've been dumping them for very low prices in the West.

Newton believed God put all the objects in the night sky as clues, for human beings to solve His puzzle. Newton wanted to solve God's Puzzle so badly he invented a new kind of telescope, a vast improvement on Galileo's, giant versions are still in use all over the world today. Newton used a curved mirror rather than lenses. From childhood, he was a wonderful tinker and inventor. As a little farm boy, he frightened the neighbors by flying kites with lanterns at night -- the first UFO hoaxer.

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Sky and Telescope (astronomy magazine, USA)
22 February 2006

My location Greenwich, UK
Mar. 08, 2006, 8:38 pm (UT)
rise: 6:30 am
set: 5:52 pm
Moon Phase
rise: 10:32 am
set: 4:02 am
Evening planets
Mars Saturn

London Planetarium
to Close

by Edwin L. Aguirre

The stars at one of central London's well-known tourist attractions will go dark for good this July. Madame Tussauds waxworks, the owner of the London Planetarium, has decided to close the facility as the company shifts its focus from science education to entertainment. The planetarium (renamed the Auditorium) will soon replace its shows with programs about celebrities.

Built in the 1950s, the London Planetarium seats around 330 under its green 18-meter (60-foot) dome. Although Madame Tussauds had cut the screenings of its shows to just one 10-minute program called "Journey to Infinity," the planetarium has remained very popular with local schoolchildren and their teachers.

"The London Planetarium has inspired generations of schoolchildren," notes Robin Scagell, vice president of Britain's Society for Popular Astronomy. "Many parents can still remember their first visit to it when they were young. To lose the planetarium now would be a tragedy."

The Royal Observatory's new, state-of-the-art 120-seat planetarium in Greenwich Park, about 30 minutes from downtown London by boat or rail, is currently under construction and won't be completed until early 2007. "The only other planetarium of any size within striking distance of London," says Scagell, "is the South Downs Planetarium near Chichester on the South Coast, about 60 miles from the capital, which is certainly not readily accessible unless you happen to be in the area."

"I don't think the Madame Tussauds management wants to sell or lease out the London Planetarium," he adds. "It's a valuable bit of real estate in a very expensive part of the world, and I'm sure they want to hang on to it. The dome itself is not a listed building, that is, not protected as being of historic or architectural value, but I doubt that they would want to pull it down just yet."

Copyright 2006 Sky Publishing Corp.


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