The vastness of space has never looked this vivid.
“We have an entirely new experience for flying through the cosmos,” says Buhl Planetarium Manager Mike Hennessy. “Using constantly downloaded data from NASA satellites, and from telescopes all over the world, we can fly you through the solar system — to the volcanos of Io, one of the moons of Jupiter, or the frozen nitrogen ice planes of Pluto. Or we can take you for a spin inside Saturn’s rings. Or we can take you for a flight to the black hole at the center of our galaxy.”
There are 10 new projectors that create an 8K image with 52 million pixels projected on a completely new dome that will make the sky more realistic than ever before.
“We’re now one of the most technologically advanced planetariums in North America,” says Hennessy. “It’s a lot more interactive. At times, we’re even driving the show with an Xbox. The data is always up to date, and it’s just very immersive and dramatic. So we’re always giving you the latest and greatest view of the universe.”
Their classic show, “Stars Over Pittsburgh” is getting a timely reboot.
“For the next few weeks, in the real night sky, people can see Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, facing South on a clear night,” explains Hennessy. “We’ll show you how to find those planets in the night sky. But we’ll also be blasting from Earth, taking a trip to all of those worlds using NASA data — we’ll fly you deep into the canyons and caverns of Mars, and the gas giants of Jupiter and Saturn.”
Starting the day after Thanksgiving, the planetarium will offer a laser show called Laser Holiday Magic featuring a flight through space with classic and modern takes on holiday tunes.
The upgrades to the Buhl Planetarium were made possible through several major gifts, including gifts of $1 million from the Buhl Foundation and Bob and Joan Peirce.
“The original Buhl Planetarium was the fifth major planetarium in the nation,” says Hennessy. “It was first built to connect people to the stars. This once again puts the Buhl at the forefront in terms of planetariums. I hope people see it as a nice gift for Pittsburgh for the holidays.”
In addition, the Science Center’s Miniature Railroad & Village is getting a new model celebrating a lesser-known Pittsburgh pioneer, Daisy Lampkin.
“She was a very prominent black suffragist in Pittsburgh, but later shifted her focus towards the Civil Rights movement,” says Nicole Wilhelm, a Miniature Railroad presenter. “She started becoming involved in consumer protests, organizing women in 1912. She organized protests from her home, and that’s the model that we’re featuring.”
Lampkin’s Hill District home on Webster Avenue has been recreated right down to the intricate brick trim along the roofline, which was created using a 3-D printer. Lampkin stands out front.
The Miniature Railroad & Village features dozens of scenes from pre-1940s Pittsburgh and environs, many of them animated. All of the text display panels have been replaced with new digital versions that can easily be read when the lights go dim for nighttime.
There are also plenty of new tiny figures in the exhibit. Donors who contributed $1,000 or more were able to have their likeness recreated in miniature. About 25 to 30 real people are featured.
Due to the pandemic, the Carnegie Science Center is currently open to the public at a limited visitor capacity of 15%, with face masks required and enhanced cleaning protocols. The building’s air filtration system exceeds recommendations from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.