The Glastonbury Planetarium

Glastonbury Planetarium
Bette Tani By Betti Tani

Ever want to travel from Earth to Mars to the outer galaxies? The Glastonbury Planetarium can take you there and beyond.

The Glastonbury-East Hartford Elementary Magnet School, which opened in April of 2013, serves as a high tech facility educating youth from the surrounding community. The man responsible for heading up the facility is Jason Archer.

Jason, whose fascination with flying and space travel began at an early age, is a license pilot and flight instructor. After earning a degree in astronomy and space science, he began work in a planetarium before rising to the director's position at the West Hartford Science Center. Directly after that, he started working at the New England Air Museum. While working there, he began authoring a series of science articles for teachers and students. At present he uses his vast technological knowledge to guide and create shows for the Glastonbury Planetarium.

Under the direction of Jason Archer, the planetarium, offers more than just the constellations of the sky. Technicolor presentations take visitors from earth, including locations in Connecticut and under the ocean, to outer space, first journeying to the Aurora Borealis, then to Venus, Mercury, and beyond.

“We have programs that show what it takes to be an astronaut, starting with how the brain and the body are effected to what it’s actually like to go into space. We can show the different phases of the moon, constellations, and the entire solar system,” he says. Traveling out of the solar system, the Glastonbury Planetarium is your gateway to the galaxy.

The Glastonbury Planetarium has a state-of-the-art digital projector and 5.1 surround sound and is capable of transporting you though space and time to view the wonders of the universe. It offers full dome films, star talks, music concerts choreographed with “out of this world” visuals, and field trip opportunities.

“This planetarium is unique because we have music concerts and other programs that educate and entertain at the same time,” he says. “We also have programs that look at the evolution of man, including Darwin’s theory, volcanoes, astronomy, space science, and more,” he adds.

So what can you expect if you visit the planetarium? You can expect the presentation to be excellent! The planetarium’s presentations typically last between a half hour to an hour and a half, containing impeccable surround sound with 360 degree “Imax” type views. Jason shows high quality films, costing up to a half million dollars to produce, made specifically to be shown on the dome screen during this time.

“This planetarium is one of the biggest in Connecticut and technologically the most advanced,” he adds.

Show offerings vary. “Aurora Storms” is an 11-minute presentation developed by NASA appropriate for grades six and up. “NASA Engineering,” a series of live and interactive video clips, explores the mechanics of gravity assists, momentum and how engineers use these properties in New Horizon's mission to Pluto, missions to Mars, and other planets of the solar system. “Darwin’s Voyage” is a film for grades five and up focusing on the evolution of life on earth.”

“Earth, Moon, Sun” is an interactive program developed for younger people, in grades two to five. It explores the relationship between the Earth, Moon and Sun through the eyes of “Coyote," an amusing character adapted from Native American oral traditions. “Perfect Little Planet” allows students to experience a vacation in outer space while “Habitat Earth” explores how everything in the universe connects together. "Habitat Earth" also delves into what we can do to ensure cohabitation between all species of life, and how to leave a healthy, sustainable planet for generations to come.

For the general audiences there is “A Starry Sky Night,” a show exploring the constellations. Another great show is “Cocomong, A Space Adventure," which features the exploits of Halley, a friendly alien who comes to earth to protect the last remaining “Star Gem” and rescue his parents. Finally, “Flight of the Butterflies” uses the technology of the planetarium to immerse you into the world of two generations of butterflies migrating from Canada to the mountaintops in Mexico.

“Renaissance to Rock,” a musical presentation, combines music from The Doors, Scott Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Greensleeves and Lennon while showcasing the likes of Copernicus and Neil Armstrong. In this show people travel through time to look at the historical development of music, science and engineering.

Another popular presentation suitable for all ages is “Yuri's Night - Dawn of the Space Age Celebration.” This show highlights Yuri Gagarin, the first person to venture into space on April 12, 1961. “Dawn of the Space Age" begins with the launch of Sputnik, taking you on a visual tour of Russian space history. It also includes the American Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle programs.

Birthday parties, which include a planetarium show and use of the school cafeteria, offer 11 different show options. Programs are for ages five and up and they last between 60 and 90 minutes. The staff takes reservations on weeknights or Saturdays depending on their availability. Please make reservations 30 days prior to the event. Information about how to reserve the planetarium, as well as a list of public shows, with ticket prices and times is available on the website at www.glastonburyplanetarium.org.

You can locate the planetarium in the Glastonbury-East Hartford Elementary Magnet School at 95 Oak Street.