The T.C. Hooper planetarium at Greenville’s Roper Mountain Science Center (RMSC) reopened early this year with more than $1 million in improvements. The 1989 planetarium was forced to close last year due to mold, but is back and better than ever this spring. The three shows currently running have been selling out in advance, and with the solar eclipse at the end of the summer approaching, the planetarium’s popularity is only going to increase.
The renovations are obvious as soon as the show starts; the old planetarium projector was replaced with a new 4K digital system, and a 360° full immersion dome with dynamic 5.1 surround sound and state-of-the-art cove lighting has been installed. Simple cosmetic work was also done, including painting the theater and lobby, and replacing the chairs and carpeting.
My boys loved the new arcade-style games in the lobby, especially piloting the moon lander. At one table they can build their own spaceship, and cool posters line the walls. RMSC advises ticketholders to arrive 20 minutes before the start of the program to facilitate parking, seating and a timely start, but a line will sometimes form in the lobby even before then. Don’t want to show up 30 minutes early just to guarantee a spot in the front of the line? Although the seats in the rear of the planetarium are considered the best, the comfortable chairs and 360° full immersion dome mean that even those visitors seated in the front row will still have an excellent experience.
In addition to programs for the 50,000 students that visit the planetarium annually, RMSC offers public programs each Friday on “Starry Nights.” Tickets cost $6 for adults and teens, and $5 for children, senior citizens, and military. Admission is free for RMSC members and children under the age of three. Currently showing are programs appropriate for a wide range of ages.
|The ceiling in the lobby|
In One World: Big Bird’s Adventure children can join Big Bird and Elmo on an unforgettable journey to the Moon and back. “When Elmo’s friend Hu Hu Zhu stops by Sesame Street for a visit, he notices that Sesame Street is a little bit different from his home in China. But when he looks up at the sky, he feels right at home. Elmo and Hu Hu Zhu may live in different cities, but they share the same sky! With a little help from Big Bird, the two friends learn about the Sun, the Moon, and the Big Dipper, then blast off in an imaginary rocket to the Moon! Along the way, they invite the audience to sing along to songs about space and celebrate the sky that belongs to everyone.”
In Magic Tree House: Space Mission travel with Jack and Annie in their Magic Tree House as they proceed to answer questions left for them in a mysterious note. “With the help of the astronomer, the Internet, an astronaut, books, and the note's author, Jack and Annie are… taken on a wondrous journey of adventure and learning.” Space Mission was produced by Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, and features Mary Pope Osborne, author of the Magic Tree House book series and a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Finally, in Eclipse: The Sun Revealed, viewers are taken on a journey through the historical and cultural view of eclipses, exploring the geometry behind an eclipse while covering how to safely view an eclipse. With a first-hand account of one eclipse chaser's experience during a total solar eclipse, the audience will be ready for the solar eclipse this August. RMSC even has viewing glasses available for purchase in the lobby.
|The Big Dipper and Ursa Major in the Upstate's Sky Tonight|
Each program kicks off with Upstate’s Sky Tonight, a 15 minute pre-show where you’ll learn what’s visible in tonight’s sky with a view of the planets and constellations as visible in Greenville. Then after the feature program comes the Mars rollercoaster, although this aspect may not be as popular with viewers who tend to get motion sickness…
After each show, viewers are invited to observe the stars through the 23-inch refractor telescope at the Charles E. Daniel Observatory. For tickets and more on Roper Mountain Science Center, T. C. Hooper Planetarium and Starry Nights, please visit the RMSC website.