The University of Hertfordshire has teamed up with the BBC to bring its 100-seat mobile planetarium to Dunstable on Friday 6 October as part of World Space Week, to give local residents and school children the chance to learn more about the stars and the solar system.
The planetarium will be erected on the land outside the BBC’s Three Counties Radio studio in Dunstable, Bedfordshire and from there the astronomers will run seven 45 minute sessions; five will be attended by more than 400 local school children and the remaining two, at 3.00pm and 4.00pm will be open to the public and will be free of charge.
The planetarium, which is normally on show at the University’s Bayfordbury Observatory, is the biggest of its kind in the UK. The six-metre high dome is used to educate people about the wonders of the universe, offering a guided tour of the solar system, the Milky Way and beyond. Inside the planetarium is a top of the range High Definition (HD) projector that beams galaxies and stars across its dome as well as a 360 sound system. The system also includes short films to enhance the face-to-face learning experience.
It is primarily used as a cosmic teaching tool for schools, but is fully portable and can be used anywhere including parks and festivals. Last year the University’s astronomers delivered education sessions to more than 17,000 children with the observatory, as part of its educational outreach programme.
Dr Mark Gallaway from the School of Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics at the University said: ‘Science touches every aspect of our lives and it’s so important to inspire the UK’s next generation of scientists. We’ve found that astronomy captures the imagination of children and adults in a way that other sciences sometimes fail to and we can use this fascination to inspire a passion for learning about the far reaching implications of science in our world and the Cosmos.
‘The planetarium is an excellent and exciting way to explore the Solar System and beyond, and a fantastic way of making science more accessible to all. I really hope the people of Dunstable will make the most of this opportunity and come down in the afternoon to watch our free show.’
Gareth Lloyd at BBC Three Counties Radio said: ‘We are very excited to welcome the University of Hertfordshire and the UK’s biggest planetarium to BBC Three Counties Radio in Dunstable. We are very grateful to get the chance to let so many people from the local area experience a fascinating insight into the night sky under the guidance of the staff from the University.’