The Oil Sands Discovery Centre is reaching for the stars with the return of a mobile planetarium 

By Lindsay Ducharme

“We are borrowing the planetarium from Edmonton.  The show is about a half an hour presentation on the constellations and the starscapes,” explained Discovery Centre facility manager Diana Moser.

“There’s two parts to the show, the first outlines the constellations and it allows us to point out the more recognizable ones and talk about some of the not so recognizable ones.  Also, it gives us the opportunity to explain to people why there are constellations as they have been used over centuries by humans for many different things.  We tell some of the stories behind them especially some of the really well know ones from Greek and Roman mythology.”

“The other thing we do is we change the drum and then it’s just the night skies, it gives people a chance to find constellations and things like the North Star,” she added.

If learning more about the night’s sky isn’t enough to draw you to the show, Moser believes the show’s ability to tailor the presentation to local audiences will.  “We can set it to the exact time of year that we are in, even down to the exact time of day.  We usually set it to whatever day we are doing the presentation and at eight o’clock that night, so literally you could go outside your own house and find them, especially in Fort McMurray – we can see everything up here.”

In addition to the local component, the presentation also shows how the location of certain stars and constellations changes along with the seasons. “You can see how certain constellations come and go depending on the time of year and also how certain ones rotate around the North Pole.  It’s pretty neat,” Moser boasted.

Although the Planetarium is on loan from Edmonton, it is not the first visit to the region.  Similar presentations were held in 2012 and 2013.  After a break last winter, the Discovery Centre decided to bring the Planetarium back this year due to popular demand.  Moser believes the program has become such a fan favourite in part due to its ability to appeal to all age ranges and family members.

Moser believes the Planetarium presentation allows and encourages audience members to slow down and really take in the beauty of our region.

“It’s a really neat look at something specific you actually participate in everyday anyway, especially here in the winter time, we see those stars a lot.  You are able to come in here and get a more in depth look at what they are, why they are there and why we recognize these constellations and the fact that a lot of them have stories behind them.  It’s a cool way of diving a little more deep into what you see anyway.”

The Planetarium presentations are available with regular admission to the Discovery Centre.  Presentations are held Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 p.m. throughout January and February.  The final presentation will take place on February 22nd.  The Planetarium is also available during the week for group bookings.