While you sit back in your comfy seats in the Planetarium theater, consider how important the stars were to sailors in the 1800s. The GPS system so many of us depend on today to navigate our journeys by land and by sea wasn’t even at crystal ball stage back then. The compass, sextant and chronometer were the main instruments sailors relied upon, but at nightfall, the stars were a crucial guide in maintaining the ship’s course. A sea captain’s grasp of celestial navigation was paramount to a safe voyage for his ship, its crew and its cargo.
During the Planetarium’s daily theater program, one feels almost within reach of stars and planets, the sun and the moon as they are projected overhead. Make sure to check out the Planetarium’s special program, “Winter Stars of a Voyage to Freedom,” daily at 2 p.m. during February Vacation Week (Feb. 14-22). You will have the opportunity to observe the same winter sky and stars that guided Amistad’s crew to freedom in the 19th century.
The Planetarium lobby’s six-stage celestial navigation exhibit demonstrates that mathematical skills and ingenuity were as much a necessity for men at sea as was the skill of sailing itself. Given the lack of modern day equipment, it’s kind of mind-boggling, yet impressive, that ships stayed the course on their voyages, and in addition, that sailors were able to determine their ship’s speed and distance traveled.
While at the Planetarium, make sure to try your hand at using the sextant displayed in the exhibit. It may be a somewhat humbling experience. Discover an Orrery – a mechanical scale model of the solar system (if you already knew this, you deserve a gold star!). Suspended from the lobby ceiling are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Pretty awesome!
The Planetarium is one of the Museum’s shining stars, appealing to both children and adults. Come and enjoy all it has to offer.
Please Note: The Planetarium Theater will be closed and shows cancelled from February 24 – March 9 during upgrades to the projector. The lobby exhibit will remain open.
* Above lyrics from the pop standard song “Fly Me to the Moon” penned by lyricist Bart Howard.
Check out our website: www.mysticseaport.org for a listing of daily events.