January 14, 2009


Editors: A photo of the McMaster planetarium can be downloaded

McMaster planetarium reopens with stellar software


Hamilton, ON. January 14, 2009 – After more than a year of renovation, McMaster’s planetarium is re-opening with a newly redesigned space and some breathtaking software to enhance the night-sky experience.

Located in the basement of the Burke Science Building, the William J. McCallion Planetarium digitally projects a representation of the night sky onto its domed ceiling. It is used to explain star systems and planetary activity to students in Physics & Astronomy, but it has also proved to be a popular attraction throughout the year for the general public, riveted by the mystery and awe of the universe. With only 35 seats, the two evenings of shows held each month quickly sell out.

“We used to begin a lot of presentations with ‘imagine this in your mind’,” says Michael Reid, assistant professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. “Now we can show visitors just about anything in the sky.”

The planetarium has come a long way since the days of projecting the night sky onto a war-surplus parachute, as it did in the early 1950s. The new software that has been installed not only allows audiences glimpses of basic sky features such as stars, planets and constellations, but can show the night sky as it looked in the past or will look in the future, from both Earth and other planets, simulate the movement of celestial bodies in real-time and explore features like meteor showers or objects in the so-called Hubble Deep Field, which were beyond the capacity of previous Planetarium projectors.

“The McCallion Planetarium has always been an important education and outreach tool for the University,” says Reid. “As we enter 2009, the International Year of Astronomy, we hope that the fantastic new Planetarium will enable us to share with thousands of visitors the sense of wonder that astronomy invariably evokes.”

Public demonstrations will begin on January 28 and will cover dramatic topics such as “The Seven Ways a Black Hole Can Kill You” and “The Power of the Dark Side: How Dark Matter and Dark Energy Dominate Our Universe”. Shows typically last about an hour.

McMaster University, one of four Canadian universities listed among the Top 100 universities in the world, is committed to discovery and learning in teaching, research and scholarship. It has a student population of 23,000 and more than 140,000 alumni in 128 countries.



For more information, please contact:

Jane Christmas

Manager, Public & Media Relations

McMaster University

905-525-9140 ext. 27988


Michelle Donovan

Public Relations Manager: Broadcast Media

McMaster University

905-525-9140 ext. 22869