Indoor stargazing dome amazes youngsters
The Center of Science and Industry in downtown Columbus closed its planetarium in 2004 during a financial crunch. But after raising $1.1 million to revamp the stargazing auditorium, it’s back this year and as our young kids can attest, it’s pretty cool.
“It’s like 3D without glasses,” says 7-year-old Rosie.
With a 60-foot-diameter dome and seating for 200, it’s the largest planetarium in Ohio. High-definition projectors give visitors a glimpse of the universe, as points of light become the moon, planets, stars and galaxies.
The planetarium is located on the second floor of the 320,000 square-foot science center. It complements the adjacent Space exhibit, where we buckled ourselves onto a zero-gravity toilet seat.
COSI charges an extra $5 for admission to the planetarium. We stood in a long line before taking our seats for a 40-minute show that included a whirlwind tour of the solar system, a cosmic light show and an animated short about an alien capturing Santa Claus in his spaceship.
We sat comfortably in our recliners without straining our necks to see the encompassing ceiling. The sun rose in the east as the full moon set in the west. Animated lines linked stars to form constellations such as Orion, composed of a giant red star called Betelgeuse (pronounced like the movie “Beetlejuice.”)
I was surprised at how mesmerized my children and their friend, Nick, were by the program. I liked getting a refresher-course on astronomy, one of my favorite subjects in school, but I thought the simple animation of “The Alien Who Stole Christmas” didn’t match the technology of the new planetarium and what people have come to expect from animated films. But the children in this auditorium seemed quite content, particularly when the show switched gears into a psychedelic sing-a-long with spiraling lights.
“We’re entering a black hole,” said 5-year-old Max.
I couldn’t help but think this venue would be cool for a birthday party. The space is rentable for private parties and even weddings. Can you imagine?
Other shows include:
Our Universe Above: COSI staff members take guests on a 40-minute tour of the universe, pointing out stars, planets and constellations.
One World, One Sky – Big Bird’s Adventure: Big Bird and friends from Sesame Street take guests on a journey to discover the moon, sun, North Star and Big Dipper.
COSI, 333 W. Broad St., is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Cost is $19; $14 for ages 2-12. Admission to the planetarium costs $5 in addition to general admission.
For more information, visit cosi.org/planetarium.