Contribution for the Forum section of The Planetarian
Quarterly Journal of the International Planetarium Society
Vol. 34, No. 1, March 2005

 

Forum question for this issue:
What are your favorite constellations to point out during a live sky tour and why? How do you describe them to your audience in a way that's different from the norm?

 

When I think about my years as a Planetarium Lecturer at Pittsburgh’s original Buhl Planetarium (1988-1991), I felt the most fulfillment giving the constellation sky tour at the beginning of one particular show: the annual presentation of the very popular sky drama, “The Star of Bethlehem” (some years, using the alternate name, “The Christmas Star”).

 

This show has been presented at Buhl Planetarium since the building opened in 1939. From my years as a Planetarium Lecturer, it seems to me that more members of the general public have been exposed to the wonders of the night sky from this one show, than from any other program presented in the Planetarium.

 

During the very busy Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday weeks (at that time, Buhl Planetarium was open to the public every day of the year, except Christmas, including Thanksgiving and New Year’s days), this show was offered nearly every hour (on the hour) the building was open (9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.). And, most of these shows, particularly in the middle of the day, were filled to the seating capacity (425) of the Theater of the Stars!

 

One anecdote: In the evening, I rode a particular city bus home several times a week. I very casually knew the bus driver, but he did not know what I did for a living.

 

At the conclusion of one of the “sold-out” planetarium shows during Christmas week, who came up to the Console to see me but this bus driver! Like most people, he does not have a specific interest in Astronomy, but he did decide to take his grandchildren to see the special Christmas show at Buhl Planetarium.

 

He, and many other area residents, did get a taste of the night sky with the sky tour at the beginning of this show. And, considering that the Winter constellations are among the brightest and easiest to find in the sky, I am sure that some of these attendees did look for these constellations in the days and weeks after attending the show.

 

Glenn A. Walsh

Planetarium Lecturer 1988-1991

original Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh

2005 January 7

 

gaw

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