COURTESY IMAGE / MIRAGE3D
The space shuttle Discovery is seen blasting off from the Kennedy Space Center in this image from the 3-D movie "Dawn of the Space Age," which will be shown starting tomorrow at the Imiloa Astronomy Education Center in Hilo.
A new view of space
Definiti: System at Hilo planetarium projects 3-D images
HILO » The new three-dimensional projection system at the Imiloa Astronomy Education Center has transported you to Earth orbit, 1957, just as the Soviet Union's newly launched Sputnik satellite sails by.
You reach out your arm, sure that you can touch it. You miss, but by no more than two feet, as the satellite coasts onward.
Installation of the new definiti 3-D system, making Imiloa the only planetarium in the world with true three-dimensional images, coupled with the movie "Dawn of the Space Age" by Mirage3D, makes for marvelous entertainment.
But is this 21st-century 3-D system of any real use to science?
Astronomers attending a daylong preview of the system and the movie this week gave a resounding "yes."
"It's wonderful!" said Imiloa's astronomer in residence, Richard Crowe.
"I've never seen (data) presented like this before. I could not do this with a slide show. Flying around, you can see all kinds of things you couldn't see before."
Astronomer Antonio Chrysostomou of the James Clerk Maxwell antenna telescope demonstrated what he meant.
Chrysostomou showed a two-dimensional moving picture of a churning blob of red gasses called the Orion Nebula, in which, he said, the bottom was moving toward viewers and the top was moving away.
In two dimensions it just looked like red clouds on a dark night.
Then Chrysostomou showed a 3-D version, with the bottom of the clouds clearly poking toward the viewer, the top pulling away.
Even better, he rotated the 3-D view so it could be seen from the side, then from the back.
These 3-D movies are computer-generated pictures created from huge amounts of data, lots of numbers.
Astronomer Brent Tully of the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy studies 30,000 galaxies spread across 300 million light-years. A static view of all this "just looks like a big mess," he said.
With 3-D, Tully, his colleagues and the public can see that the galaxies are "not just random sands on a beach," he said. The galaxies form enormous filaments, stringy structures with huge gaps between the strings.
Imiloa officials hope this revolutionary way for astronomers to see their own discoveries will induce them to hold conferences here.
For the public, the inducement is to watch presentations about the past and future in natural colors from perspectives no human has ever seen.
The color is permitted by special glasses that let one eye see one set of colors while the other eye sees a different set, the brain putting them together.
For perspective, try "standing" under the blast of a Saturn V rocket as it lifts Apollo astronauts into space.
The public can see views from Sputnik to astronaut Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon when the 3-D version of "Dawn of the Space Age" opens to the public at Imiloa beginning tomorrow at 1 and 3 p.m.