Cosmology may be the ultimate challenge for any museum. After all, it deals with a scale so vast that it dwarfs almost anything else in experience. Nonetheless, the Abrams Planetarium at MSU seems up to the task. Here is gathered the past, present and future of the cosmos and here the largest questions are answered. The institution, named for Talbert Abrams, a Michigan aviator and aerial photographer, is the area’s only comprehensive facility for astronomical research and data collection. Indeed, the name Abrams survives today in Abrams Aerial Surveys, located on Larch Street in Lansing. See the author’s article on the Michigan Surveying Museum on this or visit www.mspsinstitute.org for more information.
Lobby a marvel
One may begin with the lobby, where one first sees a giant revolving physical globe, operated by a push button(it takes two pushes to effect a complete revolution). There is also a model of the lower hemisphere of the moon, and a one-third size replica of the Project Mercury era capsules from the earliest days of the American space program. A wall gallery of outstanding astronomical photographs is featured, many of them provided by the Hubble Space Telescope, in space since 1990. Dying stars, giant gas clouds and the familiar Horsehead Nebula are among the celestial wonders to behold. Also on display is MSU’s own contribution to the discipline. The first telescope and observatory on campus remind the visitor of how far we have come since 1879! Ther is also a small revolving political globe as well as posters of comets and the million galaxies visible from above the 19th magnitude in the northern hemisphere. A Geochron device shows world time zones, months, days and the four seasons. A small gift counter rounds out the lobby attractions. Inside the theater, a Digistar projector displays the celestial wonders at certain scheduled times .
Beyond the Planetarium
The work of the Planetarium does not stop at the building seen here. The Planetarium also has an observatory which is used not only for instruction of astronomy students, but offers stargazing on select nights (sky conditions permitting) to the general public. The observatory, also seen here, is the MSU window on the universe. With four full moons and excellent views of Jupiter, Venus and Uranus coming up this autumn, it promises to be an exciting time for the Planetarium. The late Carl Sagan, noted cosmologist, said that ” all generations before us wondered. All generations after us will know. We are the only generation to wonder and to know. ” For an experience that is truly out of this world, and for hands-on learning much like Impression 5 Science Center, (see the author’s article or www.impression5.org to learn more) a visit to Abrams Planetarium is a must!