January 17, 2016 01:00 By Pattarawadee Saengmanee The S
Bangkok's Science Centre for Education introduces its new full-dome digital theatre with a magnificent outer space experience
MORE THAN 50 years after it first opened, Bangkok’s Science Centre for Education – or the Planetarium as it was formerly known – recently underwent eight months of renovations, opening its doors wide again to moonwalkers, both young and old, just in time for National Children’s Day.
Billing itself as Thailand’s most advanced planetarium and equipped with a single, multipurpose 4K Digistar 5 system from the US, the venue celebrated its return with the screening of the award-winning documentary, “Experience the Aurora” by the leading American company Evans & Sutherland.
The astonishing 27-minute film was shot in the Arctic Circle, where the team of professional photographers spent seven months capturing time-lapse images of the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, with high resolution digital SLR cameras fitted with fisheye lenses.
Shot in the very north of Sweden and Norway, the film shows the aurora that is produced when the magnetosphere is disturbed by the solar wind. The trajectories accelerate them into the upper atmosphere where ionisation and excitation of atmospheric constituents emit light of varying colour and complexity.
Ditto Thailand won the bidding to make over the old-fashioned analogue projector system and create a full-dome digital theatre that cost Bt92 million.
“We’ve improved our facilities to provide more in-depth, up-to-date information about astronomy, which we hope will inspire both children and adults. We want the centre to be a place where everyone can come to relax and be educated at the same time, explains Tatriya Jaiboon, the centre’s acting director.
“Back in 2011, Interphonic Thailand donated a digital projector worth Bt15 million from Germany but it’s very old and not really functional in today’s world. We called for bids for the renovation project and Ditto Thailand won, offering the state-of-the-art Digistar 5 system at the right price.
“The system is developed by Evans & Sutherland and we have had help from the company in renovating our sound and sensor systems as well as safety protocols. Our educators are trained by professional programmers.”
The 280-seat planetarium has undergone a refurbishment and now features comfortable pink leather chairs perfect for stargazing and a colourful backdrop in the unique shades of the aurora. The Digistar 5 system features two Christie Boxer 4K visual projectors, eight computers and automatic alignment to guarantee stability and clearness and a database that’s updated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa). The software allows all astronomical data known to man to be accessed via a system shared by more than 400 planetariums.
The lights are dimmed as the show starts to mimic darkness falling and visitors feel like they are flying into the night sky. Some 100,000 stars are shining and real-time graphics show the Taurus, Orion, Canis Major and Ursa Major constellations as eight major planets draw closer.
“Our aim is to bring children to the cosmos and other galaxies, Evans & Sutherland has developed a database and technology to serve customers around the world. An engineering team created the lens to fit the Bangkok Planetarium’s flat-dome layout and visitors will feel like they are watching 3D animation without the specs. We have selected an interior design inspired by the colours of the Northern Lights, which makes us different from other planetariums, which tend to have black walls and chairs. Our theatre is more playful and unique.” says Takorn Rattanakamonporn, chief executive of Ditto Thailand.
The current movie programme features three documentaries from the Evans & Sutherland’s stable: “Experience the Aurora”, “Violent Universe”, which looks at catastrophes in the cosmos, and “New Horizon”, which explores living on other planets in the future. TV host and actors Piyawat Kempetch, Pongsatorn Jongwilas and Chantawit Thanasewee have lent their voices to the soundtracks.
“In addition to the three documentaries, we have five short films in stock and we have also developed our six old films to allow them to be screened with a digital projector. The programme will change regularly,” Tatriya adds.
And while they are waiting for the next screening to begin, visitors can take in the exhibitions on space exploration, star clusters and the milky way or admire models of Stonehenge and a star chart made from reindeer skin by Indians.
The centre is also home to three other buildings, each dealing with a separate aspect of the world around us.
The Science and Technology building is home to a wealth of exhibits dealing with such innovations as Google Earth, satellites and petroleum while the Aquatic Life building invites youngsters to explore the underwater world and make friends with such maritime creatures as clown fish, gold-tail demoiselle, cleaner wrasse, horned trunkfish, humpbacked groupers and Siam tiger fish.
Spread over eight floors, the Science and Environment building is home to several interactive exhibitions as well as a library and playground. The little ones will love the Kid’s Town’s tree house, where they can learn about the sounds made by crickets, tigers, monkeys and elephants.
The Downtown zone encourages children to think about what they might do when they grow up through role-playing in a life-like setting, taking turns at being a dentist, postman, agriculturist, restaurateur and supermarket owner.
Toddlers have their own well-equipped playground, while slightly older kids can learn the basics of drawing and painting or enjoy a stage play at the Kid Cineplex.
Models of Galapagos turtles, tigers, lions, birds and various sea creatures populate the Natural Heritage gallery. At the “Miracle of Life” exhibition, visitors are encouraged to use five senses in taking in the artworks.
The Green Treasure gallery explains plant structures and how plants can be turned and into medicine, food and alternative energy sources, while the dinosaur area and its display of fossils is just the ticket for budding archaeologists and palaeontologists.
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>>The Science Centre for Education is on Sukhumvit Road next to the Eastern Bus Terminal and a short walk from Ekamai BTS station.
>>It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday, 9am to 4.30pm. Admission is Bt30 for adults and Bt20 for children.
>>Call (02) 391 0544, (02) 392 0508 or visit www.SciPlanet.org.