Planet Nine

Planet Nine

Adler Planetarium / Kavli Foundation, Chicago

Film review by Monika Staesche, Berlin

The Planetarium Show from the Adler Planetarium in Chicago tells a very interesting story about a rather challenging subject, the search for a ninth planet on the edge of our solar system. A subject that does not have the benefit of actual images.

The co-author of the show is astronomer Mike Brown, who is credited with the discovery of the dwarf planet Eris and is associated with the reclassification of Pluto as a dwarf planet, is now on the hunt for the “real” ninth planet.

It is hardly surprising that Pluto, the heavenly body which was once considered the ninth Planet in our solar system, is the starting point of the show.  Here I would have wished to have seen – even if the aforementioned dwarf planet is not the main theme – some dome-filling shots of the New Horizons probe. In this context, the artist’s conceptions of the newly discovered Kuiper Belt objects are very interesting.  Even if they are based only on guesswork, they still give an idea of how bizarre these icy worlds must be.

The most distant of these worlds, Sedna, serves as a narrative ‘springboard’ in the search for the hypothetical ninth planet. The orbits of the outer objects of the solar system, whose visualization also serves as a guide for the layperson in describing the ninth planet, are excellent. The audience is familiarized with current questions about research and methods. This also offers the possibility for planetariums to have the latest research results live.

The narrative style is very professional, but sometimes a bit too factual. The compelling subject would have been enhanced by some enthusiasm. The most interesting parts are provided by Mike Brown himself. The way in which he describes the discovery of the dwarf planet, Eris, and the related questions and difficulties involved, and the way he describes the other Kuiper-Belt objects with very special humor is excellent.

The music is interesting, but is sometimes is too loud and clearly distracts from the narrator.

In short: A well done planetarium show about a current and significant topic.

11th FullDome Festival, May 18, 2017