Planetarium packed

By Jane Christmas, April 6, 2006

    A comet streaks through the sky.
McMaster's Wiliam J. McCallion Planetarium was apparently the hot ticket in town last night.

Many of those who arrived for the 8 p.m. Big Bang lecture were turned away due to a substantial-sized crowd vying for one of the 51 seats in the planetarium.

Quick-thinking Steve Bickerton, an astronomy grad student, offered to do a 9 p.m. show. When tickets were snapped up, he added a 10 p.m. show.

"It's certainly unusual for us to get sold-out shows," he said. "Normally, we get 20 to 40 people, and it's usually a student audience. I don't recall a time when we've ever had this much interest. Doing three shows in one evening is a bit of a marathon."

Interest in the planetarium from the wider community has been piqued lately, thanks to two recent stories in the Hamilton Spectator, one about the planetarium's availability for children's birthday parties; the other touting the planetarium as one of the best bargains for entertainment in the city. Word-of-mouth has also contributed to larger-than-normal audiences.

Bickerton is not complaining. The Physics & Astronomy department sees the planetarium as a vital part of its outreach education program, and the more people they can excite about space and stars, the better. To that end, says Bickerton, the department is, for the first time, offering a summer series that begins next month.
After that, the planetarium will be out of commission for several months to accommodate construction in the Burke Science Building, some of which is destined for the planetarium to make the theatre wheel-chair accessible, and to improve the seating layout.

The down-time won't be a break for Bickerton and his colleagues; they will be busy improving the production and visuals of the lecture series in time for the planetarium series' re-launch.

The planetarium's summer schedule is as follows:

  • May 10: The Life and Death of a Star
  • June 14: the Summer Sky
  • July 12: Chaos in the Solar System
  • August 9: Galaxies

    The McCallion planetarium is located in the basement of the Burke Science Building (room B149) on the campus of Hamilton's McMaster University. Directions are available at www.physics.mcmaster.ca/planetarium/directions.html. All shows begin at 8 p.m.

    Read the Hamilton Spectator article.