*Posted by warikl on behalf of the Stardome Observatory & Planetarium
Replacing a full rack of servers is not a simple task; many of the servers provide a direct feed to the projectors (four to each projector) through fibre optic cables. These cables have to be pulled and new cables laid for the new serer rack to connect to. By their very nature, fibre cables are fragile and care has to be taken to ensure that the cables are not placed under undue pressure or bent around to steep an angle. Once the new servers are in place, the show content from the old planetarium systems has to be copied across to the ten new servers, with approximately 1 terabyte of information per server required to be transferred.
With the new planetarium hardware in place the final physical component is the installation of the small cameras around the planetarium which will be used to provide an auto alignment of the two projectors, and also automatically adjust the blended image between the projectors to create an overall seamless image on the planetarium’s dome surface.
Behind the scenes, while all this work is happening, the planetarium dome will be cleaned and the audio system and speakers were tuned and reconditioned, effectively taking advantage of the closedown period to complete as many tasks as possible within the planetarium environment.
With the new planetarium hardware in place and the new Digistar 5 software installed, Stardome is will be in a position to take its audiences on new journeys of exploration throughout our solar system, Milky Way and through the known universe as a whole. The new software includes highly detailed planet terrains, with full 3d surfaces, enabling the presenters to not only fly up and orbit a planet, but to fly down and over the surface, through the canyons on Mars or around Olympus Mons.
The new earth textures provide a Google earth style of navigation with 3d terrain on the Earth as well, and live updates providing the ability to show live cloud cover and weather patterns.
But updated planet textures are not the only feature that comes with this new Digistar release, new datasets containing binary stars, variable stars and exoplanets, along with new sophisticated algorithms that allow astronomical bodies to maintain accurate positions and sizes across the enormous range of astronomical scales. There are new magnetic field lines which illustrate the movement of magnetic fields around the Earth and cross-sections of the Earth and Sun with animated interior textures. The upgrade also came with the “Science on a Sphere” datasets, allowing the presenters to show a virtual model of the Earth on the dome and change the surface textures to any one of those included in the new database, which covers topics on astronomy, atmosphere, land, models & simulations, and the ocean.
In the 3d modelling space the system now has the ability to do accurate rendering of volumetric data, which is useful for scientific visualisation, and for the re-creation of astronomical objects including galaxies and nebulae. The new Milky Way galaxy contains volumetric dust lanes, H2 regions and large scale cloud formations. It includes a number of volumetric nebulae developed by researchers from Stuttgart.
The upgrade will give Stardome the capability to entertain, inspire and educate audiences for years to come. Creating an environment that can meet the expectations of the various audiences that attend, be it public coming to learn about the night sky, schools on educational visits, or being taken on a journey of exploration through the universe, music shows with an enhanced visual experience, or corporates holding seminars of product launches under the dome.
The upgrade will only be possible through the support of the Regional Facilities Auckland, Sir Po-Shing Wo, Meridian, and the continued generous support of the ratepayers of Auckland. Stardome will truly become a dome for all disciplines.