Space, Cows and astronomy in Hamburg

Last thing I would have expected to find at Hamburg Planetarium was a cow in a space suit. Join Hari on a virtual visit to the planetarium in Hamburg.

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Holly cow!

This cow should have been in New Zealand, I thought but then I remembered how Europe had cows too, and how all German-speaking countries make very famous milky chocolate. Chocolate is everyone’s favourite and integral part of an astronaut’s diet, so it is great that cows are recognised like that. Stella is the  resident cow of Hamburg Planetarium.

More than 350,000 people see Stella every year, which is a great number for a planetarium; as an idea, our numbers in New Zealand before COVID-19 were over 140,000 visitors for Stardome and over 55,000 for Space Place (2019 figures). Stella features in planetarium shows and has stars painted on her, underneath the spacesuit. 

The Grand Refurbishment 

Between 2014 and 2017, Hamburg Planetarium underwent a major update, that cost about 10 million Euros. As I was part of the team that went through Carter Observatory’s upgrade from 2007-2008 I could relate to what that could have been. Carter was completely gutted and reimagined on the inside, and our Zeiss ZKP-3 planetarium projector replaced with a fully digital system. Yet, Carter’s building was custom-made to be an astronomical observatory. Hamburg Planetarium is hosted in a former water tower. Somehow, I always thought a water tower is the best place to have a planetarium and an observatory – for the record, I’ve laid my eyes a long time ago on Foxton’s water tower but we live in Wellington and I was not sure about commuting.

Hamburg’s water tower, build in the 1910’s is spectacular and the view from the top, because you can visit the top, reveals a beautiful city, all the way to the horizon. A former mayor of Hamburg, Mr Olaf Scholz dubbed it a “sky opera”.

Hamburg Planetarium is an ESO Outreach Partner Organisation. Read more on: http://www.eso.org/public/outreach/partnerships/organisations.html

Image credit: Tim Florian Horn | Copyright: Planetarium Hamburg 

As office space was scarce before, the building was refurbished to include them and many more other spaces, a cafe, meeting places and, of course, the 20 meters dome.

Even the elevator that takes you to the roof is a stellar ride, with a Hubble photo of stars on the ceiling.

What’s inside

The planetarium reopened with an 8K resolution Digistar 6 system with 3D stereo from Evans & Sutherland (E&S) . In New Zealand E&S provide equipment for Stardome and Otago Museum. Hamburg Planetarium is, however, a hybrid planetarium system with a Zeiss Universarium Mark IX projector which integrates with the digital system.

And as if that was not enough, it is equipped with one of the largest laser and lightning system used in a planetarium. Specially developed by the world-leading German company LOBO, the high-tech lasers create a 360-degree experience of multimedia shows with special effects and over 16 million colours.