A Magical Moment in the Planetarium


This isn’t really an astrophoto as such, but it certainly captures a special moment under the stars, in this case the artificial sky of the Discovery Dome planetarium theatre where I work. At the TELUS World of Science we currently have a wonderful exhibit featuring artifacts recovered from the wreck of the Titanic. To complement the exhibition, I’ve been organizing a series of evening special events, such as lectures and concerts. Here, performers from the Cantos Music Foundation in Calgary are performing some of the music the Titanic Band played on the ship’s fateful maiden voyage 99 years ago.

The special point of the concert for me came when Kasia, on a vintage Steinway piano, and Bob, on tin whistle, played the hymn “Nearer My God to Thee,” reputedly the last song the band played before the ship went down. All aboard Titanic that night described the sky as a clear and star-filled (a thin waning Moon did not rise till just before dawn). As one passenger described it —

There was no Moon, and I have never seen the stars shine brighter. They appeared to stand out of the sky, sparkling like diamonds. It was the kind of night that made one feel glad to be alive.” — Jack Thayer, First Class Passenger.

We set up the Digistar II to project the sky as it appeared on the night of  April 14/15, 1912, and let it roll through the night from sunset to stop the stars as they were at about 2:30 am local time, when the ship disappeared, leaving only the lifeboats with about 700 survivors on the Atlantic under the cold night sky.

It was a powerful moment, one of the best of my long career as a planetarium producer.