Explore

Explore

Maciej Ligowski, Creative Planet, Warsaw

Film review by Mechthild Meinike, Halle/Merseburg

Aesthetic image compositions and contemporary knowledge transfer: Never before have planetary loops, Kepler ellipses, epicycles and Homann transfers been so beautifully staged.

Length: 28 min

Unidirectional orientation

Release: October 2017

Aesthetic image compositions and contemporary knowledge transfer: Never before have planetary loops, Kepler ellipses, epicycles and Homann transfers been so beautifully staged.

After an intro lasting almost three minutes, the content of the show, which is designed as an educational program, follows the pattern of past–present–future, which is frequently used in the planetarium. A broad audience is conceivable as a target group, but Explore can be used above all for students and, for example, to support astronomy lessons in planetariums.

Beginning with the sky observations of the Babylonians and Egyptians the program already stands out with its detailed historical backdrops filling the entire dome. The show takes up the scientific-historical development of astrology and astronomy, symbolized by a spherical universe in a human hand as a metaphor. Next, the temporal development of a loop of Mars in front of the starry sky is shown and a historical reference is chosen again. Starting with the epicycle theory of Ptolemy, the development of worldviews is animated by means of a very successfully designed orrery and the emergence of planetary loops is demonstrated. Afterwards, the role of Copernicus and the world view of the Catholic Curia are staged spatially and acoustically very beautifully. A model of the heliocentric worldview thus lands in the middle of the nave. In Kepler’s study room by candlelight, historical details are once again striking. A model of Kepler’s “world secret” of the five platonic bodies is just as indispensable as, for example, a reference to his works of optics. The laws of planetary motion named after him are implemented in writing letters as thought processes with an inner and another speaker’s voice. Kepler tried to understand the world as a whole and its inherent symmetries. And so many diverse snowflakes fall from the dome sky. The Kepler laws of planetary motion then form a kind of “time tunnel”. It shows the solar system with the orbits of the planets. As an aspect of the present the first planetary law on elliptical motion is shown and discussed in detail. The animation on Kepler’s second law follows. The partially visualized satellite orbits set a beautiful optical accent. Although the entire show is designed for unidirectional seating conditions, the dome area is also used here. The Hohmann transfer is shown in detail during the docking of space ships. A spaceship cockpit and the assembly of a large modular spaceship with various perspectives, some of which fill the entire dome, appear as a view into the future. The precision work in space technology during docking manoeuvres becomes comprehensible. A folding solar sail underlines the complexity of the processes. I’d go with that spaceship right now!

During the long journey to the planet Mars as a historical milestone, the radio traffic is unfortunately not to be understood even with fully turned up loudspeakers. Maybe it was the dramatic music. In a “holographic” spaceship scenery, the Kepler laws and the Hohmann transfer are taken up again and the problems of approaching the planet Mars are discussed. The difficulties of landing on Mars and building stations are unfortunately skipped. In the final sequence there are two Marsonauts in the expected bluish-violet sunset. Uncommented with the appropriate music, the audience can dream of the future.

Conclusion: The educational program, worth seeing, with good information content, detailed and elaborate graphics will surely find its audience. The show is composed with many details in content and graphics right down to the deep background. In my opinion, Explore has what it takes to become a classic, especially in planetariums with a focus on teaching for students. But Explore is also conceivable for a wider audience, since the explanations are conveyed in a very good graphical way. The beautiful use of space of the dome, the great level of historical details and the solid animations of the celestial mechanics have attracted my attention. Abstaining from humor and experimentation, the history of science and its laws are worked through unexcitedly and objectively, the accuracy and opulence of the pictures speaks for itself. The sound design and the voices of the speakers underline the respective scenery in a balanced way. Thus, the 23 minutes of up-to-date knowledge flies by. The spatial effects are appropriate to the topic.

12th FullDome Festival, May 24, 2018 

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