PHOTOESSAY OF THE HAYDEN PLANETARIUM - 40-49 of 60 ------------------------------------------------ John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc www.nyskies.org email@example.com 2000 May 10
SESSION 40 - 1999 JANUARY 15 -------------------------- I was fixing to visit the Planetarium since the early days of January. Once the yearend holidays were over with I figured time would loosen up and I would be at the site in a couple days. Not. We finally got some regular winter weather, cold rain, sleet, ice, snow on and off during January. And, as fate would want it, my ladylove took on a bad chest cold that occupied many of my lunch breaks. (She's now on the way back to good health.) On Thursday the 15th of January I thought I had my chance. Altho it snowed during the previous night it was supposed to ebb by midday. In fact, when I went out at lunch time the sleet did stop. However, the wind was strong enough to raise up billows of the loose snow into the air. Visibility was cut to 100 to 150 meters. And the air temperature was a biting -5C to -10C. So I just went for lunch, did a couple local errands near work, and passed up on going to the Planetarium. On Friday the 16th there was more snow in the preceding night. This time the temperature was expected to rise and melt off the accumulated ice and snow. I was prepared for my visit. And I did go, arriving at the site by the two-seat train ride at about 12:45 EST. By this hour the temperature was about +4C and most of the thick snow was running off as water into the storm drains. In many parts of the street, notably where the steam mains were, the ground was drying up. There was little wind; I didn't need my gloves and I left my jacket hood down. The Sun was well hidden behind thick clouds. There was no worry that the noon hour would see him hanging over the Planetarium to interdict my view and picture taking. The place was quiet with workers coming and going thru both gates. There were tracks of many vehicles in the circular drive in the residual snow. During my stay several small trucks came and went, including a cherry picker and a garbage truck. To enter the grounds, the attendant lowered the chain and logged in the vehicle. On many previous visits the chain was loose on the ground and vehicles passed thru the gates without a checkpoint stop. The whole interior of the Planetarium is filled with falsework and scaffolds. The Hayden Sphere was surrounded by it. When I first spotted the structure on turning the corner from the subway the edifice looked like a regular large square structure with floors and walls thruout it. It did look awfully 'solid' unlike the spacey airy appearance of December 1998. All the columns for the glass box are in place except for a couple on the northwest corner, or the corner closest to the west gate. Most of the roof beams were in place. Some wind screens were set up on the lower edge of the columns, but no one I asked seemed to know if this would eventually be spread to the entire box. I would have supposed that if the box was to be enclosed for winter work it would have been done by now. The place is still entirely open to the elements. The second tower crane (recall that there is only this one left on the property) was sleeping. With all the foliage gone I got a clear view of the boom. It is enormous. What the crane is used for now I don't know. With the roof beams in the way there is hardly any way for it to move or suspend anything in the Planetarium any more. The general silence was broken suddenly by the garbage truck that entered the site early in the visit. It was backed into the new parking garage, in service as a work and store room for the project. It began eating up assorted trash tossed into it by workers in the garage. Other than this noise, the greater annoyance came from street work, facade repairs across 81st street, and the renovation of the subway station. The park and dogrun were empty. Only a couple people strolled by. The streets were lightly trafficked. The roads were free of snow or the snow was thoroly packed down so there was no slowing or abatement of traffic. Buses flowed along both 81st Street and Central Park West every score or so seconds. I encountered a peculiar hazard this time! The ice was rapidly melting off of the trees in the park. It collected into giant drops which then fell on me with a smart splash. Each drop made a splash mark some 6 to 8 centimeters across. If one landed on my sunglasses, the water covered the whole lens. (I wear the glasses as mechanical protection. They are zero diopter lenses with a thin yellow tint.) After about 25 minutes I left the property, at 13:10 EST and boarded the Eighth Avenue bus back to work. I took the bus for no special reason; it happened to come by as I walked back to the subway entrance. I add here that my Thursday was not a total loss. I did see a planetarium after all. Not the conventional kind, but one you probably never imagined possible. When I got back to work after lunch and chores I had a voicemail from a local astronomer. He was George Awad, whose atelier is a couple blocks from my office, in the Garment District. His principal business is making those miniatures of architectural and construction projects. He has a sideline of building the world's utterly dropdead fantastical mechanical models of the universe. It is he who built the legendary 'Power of Ten' model exhibited at various museums and the Smithsonian Institution. He had a newer version of it he wanted me and an other AAA member to check out. The other chap was Eileen Thomas, the Ms Thomas, America's role figure for new female stargazers, particularly those keen on DSO observing. She occasionally assists George with library and computer gathering of information for the models. She on that icy windy frigid day was on Staten Island and of no mind to come into town, but I was a short walk away. As luck fell I ended up closing the office, after a round of discussion with the crew, early to offer a head start in getting home in the adverse weather. I put the machinery to bed for the night, locked up the place, and strolled over to George. The streets were mobbed with early departees. They were streaming into the subways and Penn Station. If there could be any doubt that Penn Station is the nation's busiest rail station, it was vanished now. And you can see vividly before the very eyes why it is essential -- not optional -- to build New Penn Station. Fully 1/3 of America's Amtrak riders and 1/4 of its suburban rail riders flow thru Penn Station every day What's more, these fractions are growing. In the Garment DIstrict, just north of Herald Sq and Penn Station, things were a bit different. Oh, yes, the streets were massed with people. But apparently no one got dismissed early. Roustabouts muscled racks of clothes thru the streets. Wagons of rolls of cloth rattled on the pavement. Grunts sweated under crates of trimmings on their shoulders. Squads of coolies marched into and out of the factories to other shifts or details. Trucks jockeyed for spots to load or unload their cargo. The air was still laden with windblown snow. It diffused the upper floors of the factories. (Recall that New York factories can be skyscrapers of twenty and more floors.) George's place is in one of these tower factories, with machinery humming, thumping, hissing. (Street steam is a major source of motor power in New York.) Halls were awash with ladies, carts, boxes. WIth the booming construction in the City and elsewhere his crew was busy. Models of various projects stood on rows of workbenches, looking like a little town with 'blocks' and 'streets'. Blueprints were everywhere, used to pick off details of the pieces that go into the models. The floor was littered with bits and scraps of plastic, wood, metal. Mr Awad greeted me and ushered me to a side room. Uh-oh. There before me was an immense coordinate plane, all neatly laid on with gridlines, reaching seemingly into deep space. 'It's only 3,000,000 kilometers deep', George explained. Closer approach revealed a nitid Earth trudging along in her orbit. A teeny Moon skated around and around the Earth. In the 'distance', was the glowball of the Sun illuminating the Earth and Moon in proper phase. In the 'deep space' were the stars of spring: the Big Dipper, Leo, Coma, and the rest. I sure felt like I was soaring over the ecliptic (the plane was that of the Earth's orbit) gazing at the Earth and Moon. 'See those stars over there'. George pointed into the 'distance'. Obviously planets, being that they were intruders in the stars of Leo and Virgo. 'Watch.' They blinked with their names: Mercury. Venus. He tugged my arm and led me to an other model. This was a bleacher seat over the whole solar system. In the black abyss were the eight planets (George is prepared, if you know what I mean) and Halley's comet. He noted that he could not get both the orbital motion and the planet rotation in the same scale. The planets would spin far too fast to see their surfaces. So the rotations are much slower. All of the vast universe was packed into a room about the size of a small one-floor house. And it was very incomplete, a monumental work in progress. When finished later this year, it'll be an awesome centerpiece to the 21st-century forward-looking science museum or regular, erm, planetarium. Maybe your town's?
SESSION 41 - 1999 JANUARY 29 --------------------------- The sky today, January 29 Friday, was partly cloudy and mild with the Sun behind clouds most of the time. I also had a stop at the Power of Ten studio afterwards. Doing the two visits during lunch was the best. As it turned out I did go to the Planetarium, arriving there by the one-seat train ride from Herald Square at about 12:30 EST. The sky had continuously cleared during the morning, but there were still some cirrus clouds all about. The Sun, tho in the clear sky, was soft. I had no major problems in shielding my view from him. The air was 5C or so with some occasional breeze. The stronger of these breezes chilled my bare hands, but a few seconds dunking in my pockets warmed them up. I could leave my coat partly unzipped to get at my camera with no discomfort. The entire frame for the glass box was set up. Apart from some left over bits and pieces, it seems to be complete. The Hayden Sphere inside is not yet skinned over. The whole insides of the place was still filled with scaffold and falsework. Thru my monocular I saw little activity at the instant inside. Workers seemed to be picking up odd tools and refuse here and there. The tower crane was busy in removing planks from scaffold on the east side of the planetarium and laying down down off to the west of the grounds. These boards were on the roof of the backoffice area against the Museum. When I first saw the operation I thought they were on the Museum's own roof. Perspective plays tricks on you. The entire place remains freely open to the air. There is some skirting around the base of the glass box; this was in place from my last visit. I noticed similar skirting or sheeting closing off the front entrance, the area under the stone archway. At the west entry of the circular drive there was a new, tho simply slapped up, guard hut; it was empty at the moment. The chain here was loose on the ground but the one at the east gate was stretched closed across the road. Apart from this activity at the Planetarium, there was a lot going on at the subway station. Workers there were clanging away inside the hut that now hides the entry stairs. While most of the noise was a low level patter, once in a while there was a loud barrage like loose material being dropped. I answer here two questions I got recently. The camera I have is the Canon QL-17 or G-III (it has both nameplates on it). This is the better of two similar models, the one with the f1.7 lens. The monocular I carry with me is from a sporting catalog, made in Russia supposedly for KGB spies. It's a 2-1/2 power, 15mm aperture, unit that fits into what could pass for a plastic 35mm film can. Happy, now? The park and dogrun were filled with people (and dogs). The front of the Museum was lined end to end with school buses. Crowds of pupils clogged the sidewalks. The bus agents were skipping around to check the buses and give them instructions. So, at quite 13:10 EST I left the site by the Eighth Avenue bus. Being that I had to stop at the Power of Ten office, I was fixing to get the Eighth Avenue local train in the subway. But the bus came right away. I got off at 36th St in the stead of going all the way to Penn Station. A quick skip brought me to the studio. I will not include any extended discussion of the works here. I had to check up on some details of the planets and leave Mr Awad some calculations. These clarified the annoying habit in references of citing the planet inclinations relative to either the ecliptic or the planet's own orbit. With this business finished I walked back to work.
SESSION 42 - 1999 FEBRUARY 12 --------------------------- So far in February the weather has been utterly variable. Weather reports were useless for planning any outdoor activity, including stargazing. In addition, several lunch times were taken up by assorted errands. This left Friday the 12th of February as my chance to get to the Planetarium. So on that day I took the one-seat train ride from Herald Square to the Museum, arriving at the site at about 13:20 EST. The day was actually warm, muggy, in fact, and I had to leave my coat unzipped to avoid overheating. Temperature was about 25C! The sky was overcast with the Sun peeping thru the thinner sections of clouds. This cover allowed me to see the works from any angle. When I rounded the corner of 81st St and Central Park West I thought at first that the entire inside of the Planetarium was solidly filled in! A second look revealed that it was still quite open to the air. The roof was decked over, blocking skylight from the interior and making it appear darkened. What the deck material was I couldn't tell; I could see only the shadowed underside. It looked solid, like planks and not loose like tarp. The whole region between the Hayden Sphere and the glass box (no glass affixed to it yet) was filled with closely packed scaffold. The number and criss-crossing of the bars was so dense that it blocked light from behind the Planetarium from getting thru! So this added to the opaque appearance of the structure. These bars obscured the Hayden Sphere such that I was not sure if it was skinned over yet. Some sort of substrate of vertical ribbing was attached to the skeleton of the Sphere. It looked like, but I'm not sure, that some continuous covering was attached to the inner face of this ribbing. There was a general busyness about the grounds. Continual hammering and clanging noises rang out from the structure. Small trucks came and went all during my visit. The new guard house at the west entry to the circular drive was staffed. The attendants logged in the vehicles and lowered the chain to let them pass. The tower crane was sleeping. The park and dogrun were populated, but perhaps the uncertainty of the day's weather dissuaded visitors. Residua of the plank road by which the cranes were moved onto the site were still in place. The remaining few boards were well weathered. After about 20 minutes I was getting a sweat -- in February -- and the sky always seemed ready to drop rain any moment. With nothing more to inspect here, I headed back to work. The Central Park West side of the Museum was filled with school groups lined up and waiting for their buses. Only a few buses were at curbside at the moment. I saw the Eighth Avenue bus coming. This I took to Penn Station, arriving there at around 14:20.
SESSION 43 - 1999 MARCH 2 ----------------------- Generally unsettled weather last week made me hold off visiting the site. Storms predicted to blow thru the City never showed up. By Monday things seemed to stabilize and overall pleasant weather came into town. Hence on Tuesday, the 2nd of March, I planned to see what's new at the Planetarium. Because of the bright Sun, I waited until mid afternoon. This let the Sun move off of Manhattan's 'meridian' so it did not shine directly down on me from above the Planetarium. I did this trick on a couple of other visits with good results; the Sun did not interfere with my view of the grounds and works. I arrived at the site by the one-seat train ride from Herald Square, arriving at the Planetarium at 14:30 EST. The sky was clear and sunny, tho not overly brilliant. Temperature was about 10C with a gentle refreshing breeze. I needed my coat, but I could leave it unzipped most of the time to get at the camera. The site was quiet. While there were plenty of workers walking about, there was little evident work in progress at the moment. Only an occasional hammer or clang noise rang out from the project. The tower crane was sleeping. With the low Sun it was in the shadow of the Museum. The whole inside of the glass box is still filled with scaffold. The Sun, well away from the meridian (that is, Manhattan's), shined on the west flank of the structure and into the western interior regions of it. From the east gate the sun illuminated the struts, revealing just how densely packed they were. The glass box is getting a shroud. The lower 1/3 to 1/2 is covered with a translucent plastic sheeting, like thick polyethylene, that rippled in the breeze. This covering dulled my view into the Planetarium from the east gate. From the west gate it reflected the sunlight, blocking all view behind it. This sheeting was inside of the columns but around the outer periphery of the scaffold. The Hayden Sphere is indeed covered with its inner skin. The outer one is not yet in place; the vertical ribbing is still exposed. In addition, the arched main entrance was walled off by what looked like plywood. In the coming weeks the interior of the Planetarium will be increasingly obstructed. One point, probably started as a joke. This central globe is NOT the 'Tyson Sphere'. While Dr Tyson is intimately the iconogram of the Planetarium, he did not 'invent' or 'design' the structure. Of course, there is the obvious play of words alluding to the 'Dyson Sphere'. This is a massive opaque sphere built by a stellar civilization to fully enclose its home star. The idea was to capture all of the star's radiation and convert it into useful work for the stellar people. Work on the other halls on this north flank of the Museum continues. They are about finished with staggered openings during 1999. The new Hayden Planetarium is the last of the halls to come on stream, at the end of 1999. So far, the target date is still New Year's Eve. Vehicles tracked across the sidewalk at the east gate, but they were all for the subway construction. None entered or left the Planetarium grounds during my visit. The park and dogrun were fully populated with folk taking in the cool breezy afternoon. Traffic on Central Park West was lighter than usual. This time some of the buses were for tourists coming in from, at least, New Jersey. Work on the 81st Street subway station continues steadily. The place look rather messy with work materials and unfinished walls. After about a halfhour I went home by the two-seat ride from this station back to work at Herald Square.
SESSION 44 - 1999 MARCH 5 ----------------------- This 'session' is inserted here to keep it with the actual site visits. This is a summary of the presentation made by Dr Neil Tyson, Planetarium director, at the Association on 1999 March 6. The talk updated the one given in June of 1997, which is summarized in session 11. It may be well to retrieve session 11 to compare the two presentations. The talk started at 18:45 in the Museum's Kaufmann Theater, the one normally used for Association lectures. Dr Tyson assumed that the audience was new to the project and made the talk independent of the earlier one. For the most part he reviewed the history of the old Planetarium, the development of plans for the new one, and construction details of the new one. He added more details on the softer features of the Planetarium, those which are still unsettled or subject to continuing revision. Here I skip the historical background, altho the scholarly reader will know of it as one of the epic episodes in American homebased astronomy. I also pass over the earlier plans for the new facility, most of which ended up being too impractical. After many months of carefully studying ways to rebuild or enhance the old building, the Museum opted to start from a clean slate and build an allnew structure. The Hayden Planetarium at the site now is something of a meterstone in the life of the astronomer. It was fully a generation ago that the last major planetarium was built in the United States. That was the Air & Space Museum's planetarium, opened in 1976. SInce then, of course, many small facilities were commissioned, mainly attached to colleges and schools. And, to be fair, some of these were fitted with Zeiss projectors, the small models of them. So it is now the turn of the century-end generation to witness the construction of a new grand planetarium. Structurally it is about complete. All rest of the work will concentrate on the interior furnishings and fixtures and fittings. As it turns out, the structural aspects of the Planetarium are essentially those laid out in the 1997 June presentation. Virtually no alteration of those plans were called for. There were only minor design changes occasioned by assorted engineering circumstances encountered during the work. The terrace atop the car garage is more tightly integrated into the Planetarium than previously proposed. From a pleasant oasis for the public to sit in or take refreshments, it is an outdoor astronomy garden laid out for nighttime starviewing. The other casual purpose is still feasible but the visitors will better associate the terrace with the Planetarium. For one thing, little decorative fountains, at first seemingly randomly deployed on the terrace, are plotted as the major stars of Orion. For an other, a large oval patch of darker stone on the floor, like an abstract decoration, is the umbral spot of a solar eclipse. The terrace has wiring for electric power (for computers and telescopes) and for data comms (for Internet or closed circuit feed to the computers). The computers and telescopes are stored in the Planetarium and are packaged in wheeled kiosks. The Association will help run the equipment for the public starviewings. There was early concern that the sky exposure and ambient illumination will thwart viable starviewing. In fact there is more sky open from the terrace that from any spot at ground level in the park. And the terrace is some four meters above the ground to lower the obstruction from nearby trees. (As many as possible of the trees around the project grounds are preserved.) One new and exciting feature is that the sky around the Museum is noticeably darker than when the project started some two years ago. In the intervening months both Central Park West and Columbus Avenue were fitted with starfriendly lamppoles and the Museum removed many unneeded, and obnoxious, lights during its general refurbishing. The park will later be totally rebuilt and the lamps in it will be starsafe. In fact, the Parks Dept recently asserted the policy that all new and replaced park lighting must be starsafe. Which is to say, the light must not interfere with the natural environment of the night, principally to protect nocturnal animals and birds living in the park. So while the poles look like the tradition exposed-bulb type, for historical considerations, the globe is faceted like a Fresnel to catch most of the side spray and send it to the ground. Hence, from a distance the lamps do look awfully dim compared to the old ones. The Planetarium's collection of astronomy litterature will be split into three parts. In the Planetarium is a reading room containing current materials, periodicals, and journals. This is the main working library for the crew. The regular books and maps, of the sort found in bookstores or public libraries, is merged into the Museum's public reading room. Visitors by appointment may peruse the astronomy books like they now do for any other Museum books. The third section, also within the Museum, is the holdings of rare and precious books. These merge into the Museum's collection and are available by appointment to scholars, like the rare book hall of a major public library. The Planetarium is putting back the triumvirate that founded the original facility and made it the flagship of the world's planetaria. They are the academic, the educational, and the exhibit astronomers. Distinct criteria for each are set for reviewing and assessing applicants for work at the Planetarium. The academic astronomers do research and studies of the sort done at any major department of astronomy and astrophysics. The affiliation for the papers they publish is the Hayden Planetarium. While some planetaria in bygone decades -- including the old Hayden -- did scholarly work, by the end of the 20th century not one in the United States does any. The educational astronomers 'run the Planetarium' by teaching the classes, giving offsite lectures, interpreting news for the media, and building the sky shows. Altho many academic astronomers can and do excel in educational astronomy, a person is hired for the one or the other discipline. This ensures that each astronomer has ample time to develop his main discipline and not be pulled off by the other. The exhibit astronomer doesn't have to be an astronomer but a literacy is very much a plus. They are the craftsmen and artisans who maintain the exhibits thruout the Planetarium. The proper interpretation of astronomy thru the exhibits is paramount for the Planetarium's mission. When fully crewed on opening day, the Planetarium will host one of the largest contingents of astronomers under a single management anywhere in the country. The crew homed in the Planetarium will enjoy completely modern and airy and spacious quarters, far exceding those of most campus astronomy departments. The rooms, in the backoffice section, amount to a seven-story L-shaped office tower about 35m on a side. Many of the rooms have overlooks onto the Hayden Sphere and the City beyond it thru the glass box. Communication with the Museum is thru adits on many of the floors, for all-weather coming and going. Of course, one can come to work by automobile and enjoy parking in the new garage. But in New York the astronomer has the real choice, virtually absent at other planetaria of arriving on foot from a nearby apartment on the Upper West Side. He can arrive by several bus lines from the Upper East Side or Midtown. Or he can come by subway from virtually any part of the City. Also unlike other planetaria, the astronomer at Hayden is immersed in a vibrant and animated streetlife thruout all the hours of the day and night. The Upper West Side, Lincoln Center, Columbus Circle never sleep; stores still open until midnight; the streets are filled with people. No more lonely and scary drive home from a deserted hood like that around other planetarium. The Hayden Sphere is walled in and work, invisible from the street in my photoessays, goes on inside. The inner wall is complete, tho not dressed. The outer wall, the 'skin', will be applied later in the year. The Sphere has two halves. The upper is the sky theater with 450 seats and the Zeiss projector. The lower half is a theater that simulates with colored tracer lights the first fifteen minutes of the universe. The exact method of portraying this is still under design and test but it may be an artificial cauldron, somewhat like the simulated nuclear reactors features at world's fairs in the 1960s. The goings on here will show the bigbang event thru the settling out of hydrogen and helium nuclei. The timeline ramp, some 110m long in a spiral, has shiftable panels and markers to pace off the years from the bigbang (or fifteen minutes after it) to the present day. The markers and panels can be moved or replaced as the timescale of creation is revised thru newer discoveries and theories. Right now the working age of the universe to inaugurate the timeline ramp is 13 billion years. On this scale, all of human recorded history is the very last 100 microns of the ramp! Apart from the bigbang theater and the timeline there are no major embedded exhibits in the Planetarium. All the displays are meant to evolve easily and cheaply over the years With many of the exhibits based on computer graphics, the task of revising them should be far simpler than those made of plywood and lightbulbs. The Planetarium lost most of its meteors in about 1980 when they were moved to the newly built gem & mineral hall in the Museum. The specimina vacated included the mother of all meteorites, Anighito, now the centerpiece in the gem & mineral hall. But a few meteors were left, notably the Willamette iron. It sat on a granite base in the first floor corridor with, under the bygone management, no context about it. The new Planetarium keeps Willamette but on a new and scary mount. It teeters on a base evoking its mass (15 tons) and suggesting its flight thru the atmosphere. The visitor can push it and hear it wobble! To set this up the iron was removed from the old building after the dome and floors were broken down. I missed this event being that it occurred outside of any visit. The first tower crane, the one in the garage site, lifted the thing out and moved it to safe storage under a shed. According to the contractor, that meteor was the heaviest load the tower crane ever lifted and moved. When the concrete for the base and floor was complete and special pedestal on its own piling was placed for the meteorite. Then the iron was set gently on it, supported by two pins to let it wiggle around. Some years ago, before the new Planetarium plans, the state of Oregon agitated to get the specimen as a state treasure. It is also the largest meteorite found in the United States. A politician from Oregon even pressured the US Congress to make the Museum return it. As fate had it, there is no longer a 'Willamette' place in Oregon! Oh, the state would have established a new place by that name, as one politician proposed, essentially a tourist trap. Then the politician caught himself in some silly & stupid scandal, lost favor among his flock, and was voted out of office. The movement to capture Willamette died. With all the wild interest in meteorite collecting, would not Willamette have been a target for poaching? It was not heavily guarded; only a flimsy shed protected it. Well, if you can pull off the theft of a 15 ton glob of iron maybe you deserve to keep it. This is in contrast with the heavy guards for Anighito when it was perched on its massive truck. I photoessayed that event. I asked the guards about the possibility of stealing the iron, all of 36 tons. Not a chance. The men were protecting the truck! Scattered around the Planetarium are models of various celestial bodies scaled to the Hayden Sphere. There may be a globe of the Sun scaled so the Hayden Sphere represents Betelgeuse. Or a model skyscraper scaled so the Sphere stands for the Alvarez asteroid. Thus, the Hayden Sphere becomes a central standard for size scales in the universe, over and above the primitive purpose of housing the two theaters. The scheme to make the solar system model over the United States is still alive but will not be installed for the Planetarium's opening. Site inspections for the planets is momentarily suspended. In this model one astronomical unit, the radius of the Earth's orbit, is about 3Km. Pluto (regardless of what you think it is) would stand some 113Km away! The issue of exterior lighting was a contentious one in the early stages of planning, with some local (and vocal) criticism. Fears were that the place would light up the whole 81st Street block like a discoball. The lighting scheme is a subtile and soft illumination of the Hayden Sphere. The floor and exhibits are lighted entirely be downlights. Remember, the whole place is open to view thru the glass box. Overall, the new Planetarium will cast off far less excess light than the old one did with its ineptly placed floodlights. For the public starviewing, various lamps within the structure can be turned off or shielded from view from the terrace. To address those funny ideas about the durability of the glass walls, there is on the terrace a pool against the Planetarium. Yes, it's decorative, but it really keeps people far enough from the glass to prevent them from testing their ideas. In the matter of units and measures, the Planetarium plays a cunning trick. There are very few 'facts & figures' portrayed in the structure. Where a measurement is cited, the Planetarium treats metrics equally with oldstyle, using the one or the other as convenient for the instant. This recognizes the sheer fact that New York is far along in being a bimodal city. Its residents and visitors are fluent with both the oldstyle and metric systems. This avoids the ridiculous conversions seen in conventional museums, like '... 40,000 feet (12,192 meters) ...' and '... 15 Kg (33 lb, 5/8 oz) ...'. The Zeiss projector is under construction now. It is the first of the new model IX, not the model VIII, current when the Planetarium project began. Outwardly it looks quite much like the VIII but has many custom features for New York. (Astronomy in New York is the highest order of astronomy, os it requires a really special projector.) First off, the standard Zeiss color blue had to go. It works wonders in other towns but is totally disgusting for the City. New York's Zeiss is a dark metallic gray, not quite black, resembling the older Zeiss projectors. We need more constellation allegorical figures than other towns. Our machine has 65 of them covering the both hemispheres. We did want all 88 but there was no room on the starball for that many projectors. In the model VIII and IX there is one starball that carries all the projectors for the celestial sphere. The real estate on it is limited so 65 is the most we can get of the allegoricals. They are stylized renderings of the Bayer Uranometria's figures One constellation that required an allegorical is Microscopium, south of Capricornus. It's a nothing group of stars, yes, but the allegorical is a modern binocular microscope with a 'Zeiss' nameplate. Because of the steadily improving air clarity over the City, it is practical to point out the major deepsky objects during a sky show. The stock Zeiss has an indifferent bunch of DSOs all displayed as symbolic smudges. In order to illustrate what can be seen from the City the Hayden's Zeiss displays some 50, compiled by the Planetarium, DSOs in binocular resolution. Each DSO is a bundle of 30 fiberoptics which pixelate a picture of the object. To the eye the object is a smudge. Thru small binoculars it resolves into its proper shape and stars. Caldwell's and Pazmino's Clusters are NOT included. The keen resolution of DSOs exploits an innate feature of the Zeiss VII and IX. The star images are about 10 arcseconds of diameter! To the eye they are true points. In comparison the model I and II Zeiss machines had images as large (for Sirius) of 25 arcminutes. The model IV was the first to reduce them to 3 arcminutes by having individual lenses for the brighter stars on a ruff around the starballs. Supplementing the Zeiss machine, which shows the sky from any place within the solar system, there is a matrix of seven peripheral alldome projectors. These are fed by the world's only complete (as best as can be done) computer model of the Milky Way. With these images on the dome the audience can be transported to any star or cluster or nebula anywhere in the Milky Way galaxy! Because all the data are in software, they can be quickly updated to accommodate new information. There is no souvenir shop in the Planetarium; there is a general Museum shop west of the terrace combined with a public restaurant. However, in the front of the Planetarium, where a lobby would be (there is no true lobby) is a bookstore. It will have on shelf or on call any printed thing for astronomy. It may also offer simple gadgets, like planispheres, sundials, computer software, small binoculars, but these are still undecided. Some readers asked why with the same size dome there are far fewer seats, 450 for the new against 600 in the old. The reduction comes from removing the outer two rows of seats to make an enclosed gallery for the peripheral machinery. In the old theater the seats were ranked right out to the wall with some auxiliary projectors overhanging them. To work on the machinery the crew had to stand on the armrests of the outer seats. Some readers were worried about the stability and strength of the central ball. Wouldn't it shake and rattle or sag under all the weight inside of it? From technical descriptions of the ball and quick calculations I verify (not that the project engineer didn't do this already) that the ball is overbuilt for the internal stress expected of it. It is quite solid, It looks like it floats as viewed from the street because the stone arch entry hides the three struts that hold it up. Just in case, it will handily withstand any credible wind pressure in the event a storm busts thru the glass walls. The slate of sky shows is not established. It will ebb and flow with the tide of astronomy developments. One thought is to run a standard presentation in the off days and to have a themed presentation for the major new events in astronomy. One stunning feature will return to Hayden, after a lapse of almost 40 years. Certain of the sky shows, like two per week, will be live with a narrator interacting with the audience. The overall guise of the Planetarium is contemporary astronomy only. There are no rooms or halls for 'history of astronomy', 'telescopes and instruments' or 'space travel'. Curiously, NASA, one of the larger contributors for exhibits and programs, was actually agreeable to missing out specific space themes. So COBE would be highlighted for studying the microwave background radiation but not as a space probe with models and flight path and all that. Part of the reason for stressing the timely aspects of astronomy is the enhanced sky awareness of City residents and visitors. This follows major celestial events like partial solar eclipses and comets and the public skywatches like the American Urban Star Fest in Central Park. This latter, only five years old, is far and way America's largest regularly schedule public astronomy event with crowds of several thousand turning out each year. It attracts daytrippers from the outer parts of the City and the surrounding countryside. Only one setback was noted by Tyson. Due to an accumulation of minor delays in the works, the public opening of the Planetarium will be in late February or early March of 2000. A dedication ceremony will be held anyway on New Year's Eve of 1999 with partial service demonstrated to the blacktie audience. On the other hand, the project stayed very nearly within budget. The total cost, including new options paid for along the way, is about $150 million. There is one incredible and exciting and electrifying feature of the Planetarium, tho not part of the structure. Because this is under early planning I can not tell you what it is. I can hint that it heavily involves the Hubble Space Telescope and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. When this feature is commissioned in the first years of the 2000s it will bring to the City a new industry, one it really never had in the past. And this feature will immediately upend certain axiomata and paradigmata of astronomy. And this feature will gong out light pollution, as the rest of America suffers it, forever. Stay tuned. Dr Tyson's talk lasted until 21:15. The restaurant we reserved for his postlecture dinner gave up on us. It forfeited our table and there were none at hand for our party when we finally did show up. We repaired to a next door restaurant and continued the discussion of the new Planetarium until quite midnight!
SESSION 45 - 1999 MARCH 19 ------------------------ I visited the site on Friday, the 19th of March, 1999, quite on the second anniversary of my photoessay. The sky was mostly cloudy but clearing in the morning hours. I planned to go to the Planetarium in the mid afternoon to get the Sun off of the Manhattan meridian, as I did on several previous visits. I went to the Planetarium by the two-seat ride from Herald Square, getting there at 14:30 EST. The air was cool and breezy, with some strong gusts now and then. Temperature was about 10C. It happened that the sky didn't clear completely. It remained partly cloudy with large cumulus congestus all over. These provided frequent blocking of the Sun so I was never impeded in my inspection of the site. Upon rounding the corner to the site, the first and most important new feature was the absence of the tower crane. It wa gone! After all these months of looming over the site, it's absence opened up the whole vista of the Planetarium. I quickly skipped to other parts of the campus to see if the crane was packed up for storage or simply moved elsewhere. No, it is no where on the property. It made sense to take down the crane being that the Planetarium was fully enclosed and roofed over. There was no way for the crane to work inside of the structure. The entire glass box was now sheeted over in what looked like thick plastic translucent tarps. View into the box was diffused by this covering. Scaffolds abounded in the space between the sheets and the outer perimeter of the box. If anything it looked even denser than ever before, but this may be an illusion caused by the general darkness inside the structure. The full frontage of the arch entry was boarded over with plywood panels. Workers were nailing it into place, causing a continual hammering racket. Generally there was little activity on the grounds. A service truck and a van left the site while I was there. The guardhouse at the western street entrance to the circular drive was empty and the chain was loose on the ground. An other new feature ws the absence of the plank road. This was laid a year ago to bring the tower crane onto the site. Many of the planks were then pulled up, leaving the residual ones to decay. Now it was all gone. The ground where it sat was smoothed out and grassed. The streets and park were filled with people enjoying the cool brisk air. But the dogrun had only a couple dogs with their runners. The clouds were really pretty. They were the puffy cumulus kind all bunched together and scudding west to east across Manhattan. They covered the Sun often enough so that I could inspect the works without interference. I did have to mind the Sun! The clouds, moving so fast, gave little warning of releasing the Sun into clear sky. Between the clouds the Sun was blazingly brilliant. I hid it behind some tree branches. There was almost no aureola around it! The sky was deep blue to within 1-1/2 to 2 solar diameters off of the solar limb. Later that evening and night, the City was blessed with a crystal clear star-filled night. And again on the next night, the 20th of March. I walked around to the Columbus Avenue side of the campus to see what's going on there. Nothing much. A new entrance for the Museum is abuilding, with the usual construction clutter. Also there is continuing work on the new halls of the Museum. Central Park West was lined with tour buses unloading hordes of visitors from the provinces. There were no major crowds of school kids this time. After some twenty minutes at the site I went back to work by the two-seat ride on the 8th Avenue subway. I got to my desk at 15:30 EST.
SESSION 46 - 1999 APRIL 9 ---------------------- I planned to visit the Planetarium any day during this week and I almost went on Thursday, the 8th. As it worked out I went on the 9th, Friday. The weather in this week was springish with lots of Sun and pleasant breezes. I already shedded my winter coat for a medium weight hooded sweatshirt. This I got from the solar eclipse in 1999 February in Aruba. It has a motif of the Dutch houses in Aruba under a stylized eclipse totality. I also designed, due to the Sun, to go in the mid afternoon. This tactic I used on several previous occasions to get the Sun off of the local meridian and out of line with the Planetarium. When I went to work it was cloudy and chilly, but I figured, based on an upbeat weather forecast, it'll clear up later in the day. By noontime the clouds did not break and it was plain that they'll be around for many more hours. There ws no cause to wait until mid afternoon. I set off for the site at 12:15 EDST. On leaving my office I walked into a thin drizzle. Nothing special, just a weak sifting of cool drops. I arrived at the 81st Station at 12:30 EDST by the two-seat ride and immediately went up to the street. Uh-oh. It was now raining. This was a raw cold big-drop pitter-patter. I throw up m my hood and zipped the jacket fully closed. Both gates at the site were open and the newer guard house at the western gate was crewed. Recall that there are now two guardhouses here, the original one down at the gate next to the contractor's wall and the new one at the street entry to the circular drive. With no Sun and a uniform cloud cover I had no hindrance for my inspection of the works. What got in my face was the rain and now a cutting breeze. My jacket is ample for cool evenings and mild breezes, of the sort I encountered in Aruba. It was altogether too weak against this rain and wind I got chilled right away. I toughed it out. The grounds were quiet. Several small trucks came and went thru the western gate to unload materials into the new garage. This garage is a staging room for deliveries. A few workers walked about the site, most of them in civvies and bearing umbrellas. The translucent tarp over the entire glass box was now quite opaque. With no backlighting from a Sun and strong diffusion of the ambient skylight, nothing should be seen thru it. On the whole the interior seemed as full as ever with scaffolding. Once in a while hammering noises filtered out. A peal of blows, then nothing more. There was little or no change in the outward appearance of the Planetarium, not that I expected any. Everything is fully formed and, except for the construction trappings, the place resembled the usual publicity pictures issued from time to time by the Museum. Despite the rain, the grounds were clean with little tracked dirt or mud. Probably up here the rain didn't get going strong until a few minutes before my arrival. The park was pretty much empty. The dogrun had only a couple dogs. The Central Park West entry to the Museum was filled with tour groups huddled against the rain under papers and hoods. There was a flock of email queries about the Planetarium on the theme of its collaboration with the Association. How can this happen when in so many other towns the planetarium and the local astronomy club descend into ugly catfighting? I can not verify this characterization of other planetaria. I can only note that this is New York and the astronomy here is vastly different from that carried out elsewhere. The furtherance of astronomy, as a campus and home profession, simply requires absolutely the joint labors of a salaried coops of astronomers -- the Planetarium -- and a civilian corp of astronomers -- the Association. Please reread the history of planetaria. When for many decades the Planetarium and Association were united in astronomy, the profession prospered and the City was the one place for the homebased astronomer to carry out his calling. When, in the 1970s and 1980s, the Planetarium threw down its astronomy mission, the bond between the citizen and the stars was torn. And the City fell into a well-deserved disrepute within the profession. This is not a pretty part of astronomy's story. Now at the jumpoff into the new millennium, the union of the home and campus astronomer is restored. Once again New York is the one place to be if you're serious about homebased astronomy. More than that. This is happening in a New York orders better and improved from the 1960s and earlier. Hence, you now hear among your colleagues that New York in a couple very quick months rises as the American urban astronomy eden. And that's the way it was. Is. And will always be. With the rain starting to soak into my jacket and drip onto my face and the chill reaching my core, I had to call it quits after only fifteen minutes. I capped my camera and skipped back to the subway. The station at 81st Street is still under rebuild. The work is slow but steady. New tile is being applied on the north end of the uptown platform but is hidden behind plywood fences. A worker I asked didn't know what the new design was. My train came in quickly, an Eighth Avenue local. After a two-seat ride I got back to Herald Square at 13:15 EDST.
SESSION 47 - 1999 APRIL 30 ------------------------ General busyness kept me from the site this week until Friday, the 30th of April. I planned to go in the late afternoon to get the Sun away from Manhattan's meridian but I realized that the Sun is now much higher in the sky. It's in [the constellation of Aries. So I went via the one-set ride from Herald Square to the Museum station. The day was utterly fabulous! Bright cherry spring Sun, deep Mediterranean blue sky, brisk breeze. Temperature was about 25C. My spring jacket was a bit too much in the calm moments but was welcome when the breeze kicked up a little too strongly. I arrived at about 13:30 EDST. The first thing I noticed on rounding the 81st Street corner was that the hut over the 81st Street subway adit was removed. The kiosk was in the open, glinting in the Sun from a complete rehab. It was roped off and still had much interior work yet to finish. Both gates of the contractor wall were open and the inner guard booth at the western gate was staffed. Two guards there were chatting away yet keeping an eye on the grounds. The chain at this entry was loose on the ground. This visit is about the quietest one I can recall. The entire grounds were barren of workers. Only a couple passed thru the site once in a while. There were no noises from anywhere on the property. Trucks were parked in the garage and here and there on the grounds but none entered or left during my visit. Did every one take off for a lovely spring day on the town? I did speak with one guard at the east gate. He was more of a watchman, dressed in construction gear and working a walkie-talkie. With the tensions about the City from the Balkan situation, he got nervous at my picture taking. He at first wanted me to leave. But I was already 'left' being that I was on the public land. This confused him. Where was he going to chase me off of? He must of figured I was not a threat, I was not casing the place for a possible hostile attack, and left me alone. Despite the brilliant Sun I had ample protection from it for taking pictures. In the interval since the last visit, on April 9th, the trees burst out in a dense foliage. The leafs were big and full enough to offer lots of convenient shade. The overall appearance of the Planetarium is essentially unchanged. The interior is choked full of scaffolds, the outer wall is still sheeted over with plastic tarp. The ground seemed to be recently cleaned off, there being little loose dirt or litter around. The streets and park were filled with people! Hordes of them coursed thru the paths and raised up a dull background din from their chattering. The dogrun was filled with dogs and runners. The Central Park West flank of the Museum was lined with tourist buses. Crowds of tourists stood on line to board them. The Museum's bus dispatchers were busily shepherding the buses to their curbside places. I lingered around for about a halfhour for the gorgeous weather, even tho there was little activity at the site. I took the train back to work. On the train I suddenly remembered: My ride goes near Times Square. And like right now Times Square is on the verge of getting its new starsafe streetlights! Any day now the old cobraheads come crashing down and the shielded or Fresneled lamps are planted in their place. So I got off at 42nd Street, the stop before Herald Square. Yes! on the streets around Times Square the first of the new poles are in place!! And there are cuttings and markings for the others to come!! This is it, folks! This is the beginning of the end of that scourge of stargazing!! Soon -- by the end of this millennium! -- Broadway will declare the death of urban bright skies in America. I stayed here for a halfhour, gradually edging southward into the 30s. Eventually I walked all the way to Herald Square and then to my office. I got there ar 15:00, just in time for afternoon coffee.
SESSION 48 - 1999 MAY 21 ---------------------- The weather in the City swang over to full summer in mid May. I replaced my sweat jacket for a thin windbreak several days ago. On this Friday, the 21st of May, I figured to go to the site in the late afternoon to avoid the brilliant Sun. But I remembered that by now the trees near the Planetarium are all in leaf. I didn't have to wait any longer to visit the works. So I set off by the two-seat ride and arrived at quite 14:00 EDST. The temperature was about 25C and I left my thin jacket unzipped to let the breeze circulate thru it. The Sun was in fact blazing but the leafs formed canopies to block it from my view. This is the first time I tried the new adit hall at the 81st Street end of the subway station. It was mostly complete on my last visit and it opened on May 3rd but I had no occasion to come around this way since then. It is now a bright and cheery room with new and modern appointments -- including a mosaic tile floor! -- yet it carefully preserved and repaired the ka of the IND subway system. The Planetarium was quiet with little activity on the grounds. Workers sauntered across the place and many left thru the both open gates. With the very warm air and the almost complete enclosure of the outer box, I guess the interior must be pretty much a roasting oven! Certainly there were no obvious ventilation or acclimatizing machinery. A couple small vans and panel trucks passed thru the eastern gate -- not the western one as usual -- and the driver had to himself unhook the chain and hook it behind him. There is no checkpoint or guard at this east gate. The guard house was empty. The west gate upper guard house was crewed and the guard in it greeted me. No vehicles came in or out at this gate during my visit. The lower guard house was empty. By 'upper' and 'lower' I mean the huts at the street level and at the perimeter wall. The latter is about three meters lower due to the incline from the street. With my monocular I saw nothing unusual or changed from the previous visit. WHile I was looking thru it, some workers passing out of the grounds suggested I step back under the tree. Huh? That way you don't get the Sun in your face. They thought my hands curled around the monocular were just trying to block the Sun off of my face. That's the whole idea. The instrument is small enough to miss attention so I can view without undue notice. So I showed them, a group of four, the little device. One of them tried it; I showed him how to slip the middle finger thru the hoop so the first finger and thumb are free to steady and focus it. He was amazed, despite its low power, how sharp and clear the view was. He passed it to the others. I noted that its very handy for site inspectors and supervisors to check up on work in far parts of the project. You can hook a chain on the hoop to carry around the neck or tie to the toolbelt. The streets and the park were filled with people taking in the summer day. The dogrun, on the other hand, was only lightly trafficked. Maybe it's too hot for the dogs? With nothing further to note I headed back to work at about 14:30 EDST. This time I took the Eighth Avenue bus because I wanted to check out the light abatement project in Broadway. The bus runs in Broadway from Columbus Circle to Times Square to confirm to the oneway traffic circulation in this part of Manhattan. There are survey marks here and there in Broadway south of Columbus Circle. The old cobraheads still stand here. In Times Square many of the old poles were already gone. Reilluminating Times Square is a multiyear megaproject that threw up many unforeseen obstacles. One of the problems was the interference of regular lamppoles with viewing the giant billboards. This comes from blockage by the large fixture a regular pole would carry and the light from the bulbs. After some experimenting and modelling an intriguing solution was worked out, several specimina of which are in place. The new poles (actually the old ones stripped of the cobrahead and cleaned up a bit) have no large lamp at the top! In the stead a cluster of tiny spotlights is mounted so the top. The individual lamps light a pattern around the pole but are invisible unless you stand right under them. From a distance the pole and cluster are hardly noticeable against the billboard. The bus rumbled down Seventh Avenue, again to follow the oneway circulation. Along this street, in the Garment District, the factory and processor for some 3/4 of all the clothes sold in the United States, classical bishopcrooks are sprouting up. Soon, the bus slewed into its stop in front of Penn Station, where I got off, took a quick lunch, and walked to my office.
SESSION 49 - 1999 JUNE 15 ------------------------ The weather was really summery in the past few days. We had a few of those horrid torrid days with temperatures in the high 30Cs and 100% humidity. No way I was going to the Planetarium under that weather! I'd melt away! Tuesday the 15th of June was a break in the weather. Cool breezy skies with lots of sunshine greeted me that morning. Temperature was in the low or mid 20Cs. I had my thin windbreaker. With no need to worry about the Sun in my eyes, for the foliage on the trees at the site was really full by now, I left for the site in the lunch time period. By the two-seat ride I arrived at the Planetarium at 12:45 EDST. The streets and park were filled with people. Dogs romped in the dogrun and strollers, bikers, joggers rushed by on the paths. The Sun, tho bright, did not interfere with me. The trees were so full that most of the area near the site was in shade! My difficulty was finding good sightlines between the trees. The place was quiet and calm. Workers passing thru the gates explained that work was racing forward inside the box, but most knew about only their one particular chore. The box is now covered in a stiffer material in preparation for the glass panels. The panels should go into place in late summer but no one knew for sure. Hence the entire interior of the Planetarium was obscured. It overall looked a lot like the earliest 'atomic piles', the first nuclear reactors. The effect was furthered by the mass of scaffolds in and around the glass box. The both gates were open but vehicles came and went only thru the western gate during my visit. The upper gatehouse at that gate was staffed with two guards who chatted up a storm and waved me thru. The grounds were cleaner than usual. Apparently a general sweeping up took place recently. But so far their is no repair to the circular drive or adjacent park, which are badly scuffed and broken by the traffic of the construction. With no visible activity, I wandered around to the other parts of the Museum works and took in the cool breeze under the trees. One of the other new halls just opened in this past week, the Hall of the Earth. I read reviews of it but I hadn't yet seen it. I really had no time on this visit to see it so I'll have to make a separate trip with some extra time. I walked clear around the Museum to the south side. There, squarely in front of the Museum entrance, was fellow member Jerome Holzman and his son. The son (I forget his name) lives in Virgin Islands (which ones I forget) and was visiting New York. Jerry was taking to the new sights, including the Hall of Earth. After a few minutes of chat I continued around to the Central Park West side. The subway entrance at 79th Street was boxed in. It's under rebuild. A few school and tour buses lined the curb with their passengers milling around them. The air was sparkling clean and blue. I returned to work thru the new 81st Street entrance of the subway. While waiting for the train I examined the ongoing work within the station. The new works closely match the original decor with few embellishments. Merely the replacement of old tile with new and the installing of new glarefree lighting really brightened up the place. A 'B' West End local came right away for my ride back to Herald Square.