John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2000 May 10 
SESSION 50 - 1999 JULY 7
    This, the 7th of July, a Wednesday, was the first day of relief 
from a torrid heatstorm. The storm centered on the 4th of July weekend 
with temperatures nicking 40c with 100% relative humidity. During the 
night of July 5-6 the air cooled off to 'only' 30C. I grabbed this day 
to visit the site being that I'm going on holiday on Friday and 
Thursday may be busy at work. 
    Before getting into today's session I thank the many readers who 
pointed out some silly errors in session 49 from June 15. Yes, there 
is only one subway I spoke of and its the 81st, like in 'eighty-first', 
Street station. I made the corrections in the archival copies of the 
photoessays. [This is corrected in this edition of the 
    A couple readers, apparently newer ones, asked what is a 'two-
seat' ride. Am I that fat? No. It means a ride requiring two trains 
with a change at Columbus Circle. Thus I sit on one seat in the first 
train and on an other seat in the second train. (A one-seat ride means 
that I rode a single train, sitting on one seat, straight to the 
    The heatstorm brought some havoc to the City. One was an electric 
power outage in the panhandle of Manhattan, covering Coogan's Bluff. 
This severed the northern termini of the Independent, causing 
wholesale reroutes thruout that system. 
    Thus at 13:00 EDST I rode from Herald Square to the Museum by a 
single train, a one-seat ride. The train was a reroute due to the 
power shutdown. I arrived at the Planetarium at 13:20 EDST. The ride 
was a bit longer on account of trains being juggled around. 
    The sky was clear blue with only a few small cirrus clouds around 
the horizon. There was a continuous soft breeze that carried off the 
dampness of sweat from my face. I wore my windbreaker, tho I was 
definitely warm in it, for its pockets to carry my camera and 
    The site was quiet like on previous occasions but there was a 
major difference. The box looked much smoother than before and more 
finished. Yep, one of the workers noted that the glass panels were 
attached in the last couple of weeks. They looked opaque at first, 
obscuring everything inside. With the monocular I saw that they merely 
were reflecting the outside landscape while standing against a mass of 
scaffolds behind them. 
    The grounds were generally clean, as if sweeped off. There was no 
major trash or rubbish anywhere. One garbage truck emerged from the 
grounds by the west gate while I was there, but otherwise there was no 
vehicle movement. A few workers walked across the site. 
    The trees were so full and dense that the Planetarium is mostly 
blocked from 81st Street. Even from the gates overhanging branches 
poked into my view. But this umbration shaded me from the Sun and 
induced cool breezes. 
    The streets and park were alive with people soaking up the air 
following several days of unescapable sauna. The dogs and runners were 
desporting in the dogrun. 
    After about 20 minutes I headed back to the station but an Eighth 
Avenue bus slided into the bus stop. I took it back to Penn Station. On 
the way I looked over the streetlight replacement in Broadway. The 
work seems to be going slowly or even maybe paused. About the same 
progress was evident now as a month or so ago, with one or two new 
poles in place. 
    After debarking at Penn Station I stopped for lunch in Herald 
Square and then went back to my office. 
SESSION 51 - 1999 JULY 26
    I had to visit the site soon being that in a couple weeks I'm off 
to see the solar eclipse. So I made up my mind over the past weekend 
to just go on Monday the 26th of July in 1999. It happened that the 
City was in the depths of a heatstorm that sent temperatures into the 
upper 30Cs with quite 100% relative humidity. 
    I set off for the Planetarium at 12:45 EDST on this 26th of July 
by the one-seat ride from Herald Square. When I arrived at 81st Street 
station workers were busily finishing up the task of rebuilding the 
place. There's lots more left to do but enough is done to make the 
station really pleasant. 
    Of special note was the addition of the IND racing stripe. 
Queerly, this station and the others on the very first section of the 
Independent are the most nonIND stations in the system! They lacked 
that racing stripe! So a new one, thinner than the normal width, is now 
in place on the lower platform. Because the upper platform has a lower 
ceiling, the racing strip is set lower on the wall and is interuppted 
by the large name panels. 
    A bit of nonastronomy history. The Independent set of subway 
lines, or IND, was designed to embed a color coded map for its 
stations. The code was in the name plaque and racing stripe. Both are 
of two colors but reversed from each other. That is, the border color 
of the name plaque is the field color of the racing tripe, and vice 
    The idea was that a rider could follow the pattern of the colors 
know where he was on the subway and suss out how to get to his 
destination. Three monkey wrenches were thrown into the gears. 
    One was that the code was never published! To this very day no one 
has ever cracked the code and laid out a correct explanation for the 
colors. This feature of the IND has been used to emphasize the 
essential impossibility of interpreting extraterrestrial signals. If 
we can not on Earth figure out something so simple as a set of colors 
intended for public benefit, how can we ever hope to understand radio 
broadcasts from totally alien creatures? 
    The second was that the colors were awfully subtile. Altho the 
81st St station has 'blue' and 'black' for its colors, they are 
slightly different from the 'blue' and 'black' of, say, 72nd Street 
station, the next one going downtown. Yet it is this difference that 
somehow clues the rider in his journey. 
    A third, modern, monkey wrench is that the stations in the 1960s 
were fitted with fluorescent lamps. The colors were fitted to the 
original yellowish incandescent lamps. The new lamps totally distort the 
colors out of any possible validity. 
    On the street I headed right into the shade of the trees in 
Roosevelt Park. The Sun was too burning to stay under it. I was in 
short sleeves yet I perspired briskly even while resting. The heat got 
to the park denizens, too. They walked slowly or sat on the benches. 
No fast jogging or running on this dog. 
    The new feature today is the closing off of the west gate on the 
circular drive. The entry at the street, next to the upper guardhouse, 
was blocked by a hunk of snow fence. The roadway was newly segregated 
from the footway by a chest-high stud-&-plywood fence. 
    This walled off the lower guardhouse and gate from approach, yet 
left the footway fully attached to the paths within the park. For 
worker access, there is a simple door cut into the fence at about the 
midpoint. Several workers came and went thru this door. 
    Recall that the circular drive has two concentric paths. The inner 
one with cobblestones is for vehicles. The outer laid with hexstones 
is for foot traffic and connects to the paths in Roosevelt Park. 
    The upper guardhouse was crewed. The guards here checked in the 
workers to enter the site. They chatted with several workers who just 
left the site. I asked if I may go down to the lower gate. No, the 
public area is now removed back to this new fence. 
    The cobblestones in the roadway were pulled up and the soil now 
exposed seemed to be raked or otherwise smoothed out. 
    My view of the structure were vastly diminished. I no longer had 
the proximity of the western lower gate. Thru the monocular, the 
panels looked like they were recently cleaned. Reflections of the 
scenery in them were sharp and clear. 
    A stick crane was busily moving loads around the grounds. The 
machine was partly obscured by trees and the contractor's original 
wall so I couldn't tell what was going on. 
    The glass box looks more or less complete. If the outer scaffold 
were removed, the whole thing would have smooth contours all over. The 
box was still opaque from the mass of interior framing and scaffolds. 
    Views of the Planetarium from 81st Street were about hopeless. The 
trees were so thick with leafs that they presented a mostly solid 
barricade against sightlines from the street. 
    The east gate is now the only adit for motor vehicles. A couple 
trucks entered the grounds by this gate. Its guardhouse was empty and 
the trucks rode onto the premises without stopping to check in. The 
chain at this gate was removed completely. Previously it was hanging 
loose on the ground. 
    Viewed from this east gate the grounds were overall clean and 
litter free. Construction material was set out here and there in neat 
piles. The stick crane, in front of the new car garage, was hidden 
behind the glass box. 
    Back at the west gate there was a new large billboard within the 
park. It announces the general rehabilitation by the Parks Department 
of Roosevelt Park. This is a project separate from the Planetarium and 
North Side project but is coordinated with it. The heavy work on the 
Museum campus has to be completed first before major work can begin in 
the park. Hence, after the Planetarium opens, visitors will be 
somewhat inconvenienced by construction activity in the park around it 
for some many more months. 
    The Planetarium may open in February, rather than in spring, of 
2000, according to a status report presented by director Dr Neil 
Tyson. He gave his report, illustrated by slides, at the Moonwalk lawn 
party on 17 July. This was a program of the Parks Department with the 
collaboration of the Association and several other space-related 
    The heat was getting the better of me; I quit the site at 13:30. A 
West End local flew into the subway station almost as I stepped onto 
the platform and I rode it all the way back to work.
SESSION 52 - 1999 AUGUST 31 
    Being that I was away for most of August in Turkey for the solar 
eclipse on 1999 August 11, I squeezed in two visits to the 
Planetarium. The first, session 51, was on July 26th and this, session 
52, was on Tuesday, August 31st. I went to the site by the two-seat 
ride from Herald Square, arriving there at 12:50 EDST. 
    The air was cool, about 20C, dry, refreshingly breezy. The sky was 
generally clear with a bright, but not overly brilliant, Sun. I was 
glad I had my windbreaker and long-sleeve shirt. Yet I was actually 
very glad for this weather! After all, in Turkey in August the 
temperature was never less than 35C and it hit 44C on a couple days! 
    The scene at the Planetarium is totally changed! Major 
construction started within Roosevelt Park, with machinery and piles 
of dirt all over the place! The park from the east gate of the 
circular drive all the way to Columbus Av and 79th Street was fenced 
off with a chainlink fence. The fence was weak, easily toppled, only 
the uprights were holding the mesh. The top edge, about 2 meters off 
the ground, was left rough. 
    This fence hemmed in the park at the street. No entry into it was 
permitted and 'Danger - keep out' signs were posted along the fence 
every few meters. However, a gate in this fence at the east gate of 
the circular drive was open and I ambled down to the contractor's wall 
for my inspection. 
    The guard and I chatted. She noted that the park work began a 
couple weeks ago but it does not interfere with he work on the 
Planetarium. Almost all of the original contractor's wall is removed 
allowing clear sight of the lower portions of the Planetarium from the 
    Some of the exterior scaffolding on the glass box was removed.     
The interior scaffolding still filled the box, making the structure 
still opaque. 
    There was an idle stick crane at the northwest corner of the 
Planetarium, near the lower west gate. The scene was quiet. All noise 
came from activity within the park. A couple Planetarium workers came 
and went during my visit. No vehicles entered or left the grounds. 
    From 81st Street, the open prospect thru where the contractor's 
wall stood partly made up for the obscuration of view by the dense 
leafs on the trees. The trees in the park were caged with laths to 
prevent accidental damage. This is a standard practice in the City. 
Trees are assessed for preservation and left in place. 
    Just about everything else in the park is torn up: furniture, 
lamppoles, paving. The entry at Columbus Avenue and 81st Street is 
fitted with a chainlink gate. The pillars are beefed up here to 
support this gate. An other similar gate closed off the entry at the 
west gate of the circular drive. The chest high wood fence from the 
last visit is gone and the footpath in this area is all broken up. 
    The dogrun was moved to a temporary site on Columbus Avenue at 
79th Street. It's the same size as the old one but has a more 
substantial fence. Entry is by a double gate, like a canal lock, made 
of rough lumber and plywood. The dog and its runner are passed thru in 
two steps such that the two doors are never simultaneously open. 
    Picture taking was not seriously hindered. The mesh on the 
chainlink fence was loose enough to fit the camera lens. But, of 
course, all photos were taken from the street with no entree into the 
park at any point. 
    The guard believes the Planetarium will be open by yearend for 
shakedown tests and commissioned in February of 2000. With the park 
work still under way then the approach to the Planetarium will be from 
only the east gate, which will be paved and curbed in plenty of time, 
and from within the Museum. The west gate will remain closed due to 
the park renovation. 
    Apparently, altho the guard did not mention it, this closes off 
use of the new car garage for the first few months of operation of the 
new Hayden Planetarium. Road access to it is by this west gate and a 
new one from 79th St, both within the project frontier of the park. 
    After about a halfhour, at 13:20, I left for work, getting there 
by the two-seat ride from the 81st Street subway station. 
    The long interval since the last visit, on 1999 August 31, comes 
from the erratic weather in the City during September. Days were 
capriciously sunny or rainy regardless of weather forecasts. On this 
Friday the 24th of September the day stayed sunny and I scooted up to 
the Planetarium at 12:30 EDST by the two-seat ride from Herald Square. 
    The temperature was about 25C with no breeze. The Sun was bright 
in a normal blue sky. I happened to be wearing my hooded jacket, the 
one from my eclipse trip to Aruba in 1998 February. It was too heavy 
for today. I left it unzipped. 
    Overall the scene is unchanged from the last visit. There was 
ongoing construction within the park. Earthmovers were sculpting the 
ground and all the furniture and fixtures were in disarray or broken 
up. Due to strong wind in the previous couple days some of the wood 
cages protecting trees were skewed. These are flimsily made from scrap 
lumber and nails. In other places where trees are so protected, the 
cages are left toppled until removed. Probably they'll here stay that 
way, too. 
    My approach to the grounds was constrained more than last time. 
The east gate is now closed from the public. At street level the 
perimeter chainlink fence extended across the circular drive but the 
swinging door was open. I walked down to the guardhouse where a guard 
greeted me. She explained that in the last week or so this entry is no 
longer accessible to the public. 
    She noted the gate was open at the street to allow passage of 
vehicles, this now being the only adit to the site. She let me linger 
for a moment to take a picture. 
    The view from the street was open from the previous removal of the 
contractor's fence and the shade from dense leafs on the trees. While 
the branches hung low, they left enough sightline for good views. 
    At the time a dumpster was being muscled around in front of the 
Planetarium. An empty one was shoved bu its truck into the front 
entry, under the stone arch, of the Planetarium and a full one was 
pulled out. Eventually while I watched, the truck hauled off the full 
dumpster thru the east gate and into 81st Street. 
    The cube of the new Planetarium is still filled with scaffolds. It 
is still generally opaque inside. From colleagues seen at AAA meetings 
I learned that there is nothing inside that's finished for occupancy, 
not even temporary quarters for the staff. All Planetarium crew still 
is officed within the Museum. 
    The new garage next to the Planetarium looks structurally 
complete. It is still used for laydown and work space for the 
    I did not walk all around the park this time being that it was in 
total upheaval. I did take a couple photos of the works for context. I 
found myself on the Columbus Avenue side of the park when I finished 
my inspection. Rather than go back to the IND station I walked to the 
79th Street station of the IRT. The main reason was that I had some 
errand in West Village to look after and this line goes directly to 
there. I left the site at 13:30 EDST. 
SESSION 54 - 1999 OCTOBER 22 
    It's been almost a full month since the last visit to the 
Planetarium, mostly because I was repeatedly busy during lunch. My 
ladylove has hospital visits in midday and I accompany her. She's 
doing well and from time to time she doesn't need me. So today, the 
22nd of October, I hopped over to the site by the one-seat ride from 
Herald Square at quite 12:10 EDST, and arrived there at 12:30. 
    The day was mostly cloudy with cumulus congestus, temperature 
about 20C, and breezy. I was coming off of a sore throat so I wore my 
winter coat to ward off the breeze and contain any chill that may 
erupt. It turned out to be too hot in the coat and I left it unzipped. 
In fact, the general walking about in the fresh air alleviated my 
    The major new feature today was the opening of the west gate to 
vehicles. The circular drive was repaved with cobbles and recurbed, 
all part of the overhaul of the Theodore Roosevelt Park fronting 81st 
Street. Assorted small trucks flew in and out of this gate during my 
visit. Some were for the Planetarium. Others were for the Park. 
    The guardhouse at street level was relocated to the east or inner 
side of the circular drive. It was previously between the vehicular 
and pedestrian roads. I asked the guard if I could go down to the 
inner gate for a better look at the works. She explained that this 
here point at street level was the limit of public access and she 
could not let me enter. So all my viewing, like on the last couple 
visits, was from the street on 81st Street. 
    The other major change was that the cube, the glass box, is now 
free of most of the internal scaffolding. It is all transparent and 
you can see thru it. However, the sphere-in-cube effect is lost being 
that the rear face of the Planetarium abuts the opaque Museum. Perhaps 
the lack of Sun with collateral lack of shadow caused this appearance. 
On a day with strong Sun I'm sure the Hayden Sphere will stand out 
    In the Park work was proceding vigorously. Earthmovers were 
digging around and construction sheds were plopped down all over the 
place. The noise, tho not offensive, was the loudest I heard from the 
site in many visits. Workers entered and left thru the west gate 
    The east gate was open but the public is barred from entering it. 
There were workers milling around it but they were part of the crew 
working on the subway station underneath of here. This station, 81st 
Street on the IND Eighth Avenue line, is about finished with new 
mechanical and electrical systems, tiling and decorations, lighting, 
and other conveniences. Some punchlist items were evident. The south 
adit at 79th Street is still closed. Temporary signs directed all 
riders to the north end at 81st Street for the Museum. 
    On Central Park West between 80th and 81st Street a sidewalk cut 
was opened for steam. The crew working on it said they were coupling 
the steam service to the new Planetarium. As you know, planetaria do 
use lots af steam and the easiest and cheapest way to supply it is to 
plug into the mains under the street. 
    With a lingering doubt for the smarts of staying around outdoors 
with a sore throat and with little more to inspect, I left the site at 
13:00 EDST. I arrived back at work by a one-seat ride at 13:15.
    As things turned out there was no site visit during all of 
November. There's no particular cause for this, altho the weather was 
a bit erratic, making for some rather dissuasive days. So it was on 
Tuesday, the 7th of December in 1999, that I got to the Planetarium. 
    I left work at 13:00 EST and arrived by the one-seat ride from 
Herald Square station. The day was sunny, temperature about 5C with a 
continuous breeze. I had my winter coat zipped up most of the time. 
    The scene was actually little changed from the visit of October 
22nd, except that the Planetarium grounds were obviously neater and 
cleaner. All the structural work is complete, so there were no heavy 
machinery on the site. With the monocular I noticed odds and end 
pieces of the Hayden Sphere not yet attached and some parts of the 
Cube yet unfinished. The garage looked essentially complete with some 
finishing touches to be completed. 
    The west gate was open and its guardhouse was crewed. Delivery 
trucks constantly came and went all during my visit. The guard checked 
papers and waved them thru. The public area is still at street level; 
I was advised not to enter the gate. The east gate was locked but a 
cement truck (a truck for mixing and carrying cement) was churning its 
load on the circular drive. It was preparing concrete for the work in 
the park, not the Planetarium. 
    The entire park was totally in turmoil from the renovations. It 
may, if this pace keeps up, be at least livable by the time the 
Planetarium opens. But there is no planned synchronism between the two 
    With the Sun hanging over the Planetarium by the early hour I 
arrived there, about 13:20 EST, and the lack of foliage on the tress, 
my views were severely impeded. Now last winter I had the advantage of 
carefully selected trees and poles to shield me and my camera. These 
were still in place. 
    The new impediment was the tall chainlink fence along the frontage 
on 81st Street. Backlighted by the Sun is made a white-silver grillage 
over my entire visual field! Even from the sheltering spots the 
grillage crisscrossed over the scene. That's because the fence stood 
between the Planetarium and most of these spots. Yet I did get several 
shots of the place altho I suspect some will be spoiled by solar 
    With a bright Sun in the sky the Hayden Sphere stood out plainly 
from the background of the Museum. The tripod of struts so cleverly 
masked by the stone archway really give the illusion that the ball is 
floating inside the cube. 
    I'm writing this essay on December 18th. Just before then I had 
the chance to pass by the Museum at night. A bunch of New York 
astronomers went to Central Park after that afternoon's Observing 
Group meeting to check out the stars and an Iridium flare. Following 
that I and an other member took a bus to Lincoln Square with a 
transfer at the Museum. 
    So we stopped to see the Planetarium, which is right near the bus 
stop. It was softly illuminated from the top. The Hayden Sphere so 
much as hovered in space, like held by magnetic pressure or something! 
The lighting is quite gentle, unlike the overly bright and inept 
illumination on the old edifice. The designed lighting for the old 
Hayden Planetarium was rather nice, with the dome and facade bathed in 
art deco tints. But the last managers put up additional lamps that 
trashed the historical aspect of the place. All the lamps in the new 
facility are entirely hidden from the street and sky. 
    It was by coincidence that on the previous day, Monday the 6th of 
December, the New York Daily News carried a two-page article about the 
Planetarium. It was 'Fantastic voyage' by Sandra Gardner. detailing 
the features of the completed facility. It included cutaway diagrams, 
the same ones as issued here to fore, and shots of the interior from 
the main floor. With the wide-angle lens she used the Hayden Sphere 
looked positively humongous! 
    Also by coincidence the American Association of Variable Star 
Observers issued in 1999 November its journal for the fall 1998 
meeting. It had the abstract of my slide and viewgraph talk at that 
meeting about the new Planetarium. Do note that by now the information 
in that talk is quite a full year old. For example, the Planetarium 
was then still structurally quite incomplete. 
    After about a halfhour at the site, near 14:00 EST, I left via the 
8th Avenue bus. I wanted to check out the reillumination project in 
Broadway north of Times Square. The business district mounted a crash 
project to finish this work by the end of this year. Local darksky 
advocates, particularly from New Jersey, went apeshit wild when the 
project, which began in spring of 1999. They gave the H&M a windfall 
of ridership as they thoroly documented and recorded the first poles 
going up. 
   Then in summer of 1999 the whole job went into slo-mo. In October 
and November progress resumed and I photoessayed it in the reach from 
Herald Square to Times Square. The reach north to Columbus Circle I 
hadn't yet examined. The bus ride gave me a grandstand view. 
    Essentially all the new poles are in place! A few lingering old 
cobraheads remain in the upper fifties, but for the most part all of 
Broadway is lighted by those moonlight starsafe lamppoles now silk-
screened onto the pillows of darksky leaders around the planet. 
    The ride was steady and quick, surprisingly so with the masses of 
people flooding the streets in this holiday season. We're on the 
upramp for the yearend -- millennium-end -- inundation of, gulp!, five 
million visitors. Soon I was at Penn Station, where I hopped off to 
return to work. 
SESSION 56 - 2000 JANUARY 11 
    I made it in the 21st century. In case you missed it, it started 
at midnight of January 1st. In fact, we had an incredible Times Square 
celebration, possibly the largest ever in the Square for it. (Possibly 
the celebration for the end of World War II was a bit bigger, but the 
attendance records are not certain.) 
    I planned to visit the site on Monday, the 10th, I picked the 
first cloudy day of convenience to avoid the hassles with the low and 
brilliant Sun. So I prepared to leave for the Planetarium from work 
and, ugh!, out my office window I saw a rainstorm blew into town. It 
was a hard nasty downpour, not expected by the weather forecast of 
that morning. I cancelled my plan and just dashed out to get lunch at 
a closeby sandwich shop. 
    On the next day, Tuesday, the 11th, it was cloudy again. This time 
there was no rain and I set off for the site at 12:30 EST. The one-
seat ride brought me to the Planetarium in quite ten minutes. As the 
train swooshed into 81st Street station I saw that the south exit was 
open. People were rushing thru the turnstiles to meet the train. 
However, I was already near the north end of the train, the front as 
it went uptown, so I exited at the 81st St stairs. 
    The day was cloudy with no Sun at all. Temperature was about 5C 
with a brisk breeze. I had to keep my hands in the pockets when not in 
use and my wool hat was pulled down over the ears. 
    The scene was, well, whistle clean! Just about all the material 
and machinery in the park was gone! The park was still unfinished but 
at least there was no blockage of my view this time. Even the lath 
cages around the trees were removed. At the same time there was no one 
working in the park. The place was empty. At the western end, beyond 
the Planetarium grounds, construction trailers and some minor mess 
    The western gate was open and unstaffed. A worker heading for the 
Planetarium did advise, at my request, that the public area is still 
at the street. The circular drive is repaved on both the vehicle and 
foot portions. It was done in allnew hexstone and cobbles. 
    The east gate was closed. This gate was uncrewed and workers came 
and went without challenge or checks. They all had keys for the 
padlock on the gate. 
    New lamppoles dotted the drive and the park. Being that it was 
daytime they were turned off. So I can not tell for sure how they look 
at night. They are the classical 'city park' type of lamp, with a 
large 'acorn' globe and cage on top. They would in other towns be 
heavily deprecated for the side and up spray of light. 
    Here in the City it is no longer acceptable to operate such 
wasteful light. We evolved a cunning strategy for the parks and many 
squares and plazas. We put up the outwardly nostalgic and historical 
poles. But the bulb and globe are of a new design that minimizes 
wasted light spray. The bulb is set high near the top of the globe so 
the metal cap of the cage partly shields it. The globe is fluted or 
ribbed to intercept outward rays and deflect them back to the ground. 
    The result is a soft glowing globe from a distance but with a 
bright and even puddle of light around the pole. This extends about 4 
or 5 meters in diameter from the pole, enough to touch the puddle of 
the next lamp and thus light the paths and not the air. This lamp is 
the de facto standard in the City for all Parks Department properties. 
I can only assume, not yet having actually seen Roosevelt Park at 
night since the renovation, that these ones here are also of the same 
    The Planetarium itself is structurally complete. There remain, as 
seen thru the monocular, odds and ends work to be done inside the 
cube. Some temporary boards and scaffold lined the front of the cube. 
The grounds around the Planetarium looked sweeped and cleaned, there 
being very little rubbish or construction material around. Delivery 
trucks were parked in the new garage. No vehicle came or went during 
my visit. 
    The Hayden Sphere was receded opticly into the cube from the lack 
of strong lighting from the Sun. From some angles, it almost vanished! 
I had clear sightlines from almost any point around the park due to 
both the lack of direct Sun and leafs on the trees. The chainlink 
fence did not interfere at all. I could poke the camera thru the mesh 
with no need to struggle against sunlight shining onto it. 
    Altho the Planetarium is not ready for full function, it was 
opened on occasion for special visits. The biggest event was a New 
year's Eve dedication ceremony for the Museum officials and some major 
outside bigwigs. Also, journalists were taken on tours and their 
stories ran in the local papers in late 1999. 
    None of the exhibits is really open, they being covered by tarps 
for protection during the remaining stages of work. The timeline ramp 
is finished. Visitors privileged to see the inside could walk along 
it. The sky theater is finished and under test. The Zeiss projector 
proved out perfectly. 
    The Planetarium crew is starting to move into its new offices 
within the edifice as the rooms are cleared for occupancy. 
Commissioning of the new Hayden Planetarium is on the board for mid or 
late February of 2000, not at all overly 'late'. Over the 2-1/2 year 
construction the slippage is only some 50 days. 
    Some readers noted that the lighting on the Planetarium was turned 
on once in a while at night. They saw it as they passed by the Museum. 
I haven't seen the place at night yet! I'll have to get in a night 
visit, like before going to the February AAA lecture. 
    During the morning of today a member called me to tell of a new 
story about the Planetarium just published. It's in New Yorker 
magazine for January 17th by Paul Goldberger. Anyone following the 
world of planetaria must read it. It's a peek at the development of 
the ultimate design, the sphere-in-a-cube, of the Hayden Planetarium. 
    This article brings out several features of the City's outlook on 
the world which may raise up severe reactions in rest-of-world 
readers. Most notably in those mixed up in the flap over Stellafane in 
    Regarding the planetarium trade in the United States, it looks 
both promising and hopeless. The New Hayden Planetarium is the last of 
the great American planetaria of the 20th century, it being 
structurally completed in December of 1999. It is also the first of 
the great American planetaria of the 21st century, it opening for 
service in a few weeks. 
    But in the overall scheme of astronomy culture in the United 
States, this Hayden Planetarium is likely to be the ONLY great 
planetarium of the 21st century! Or, perhaps more realisticly, the 
next one will come in the latter half of this century. It is not a 
pretty thought, yet from the general fabric of our profession in this 
country, that's the pattern etched into it. 
    One point thatemerged from building this Hayden Planetarium is 
that Zeiss may never sell an other large-size projector in any other 
town in America again. Oh, we here will over the decades replace our 
shining new model IX machine with newer ones. It just that of American 
towns we here may well be the very last abode of that masterpiece. Oh, 
there will certainly be new planetaria in rest-of-world along the 
years. But no more Zeiss ones. 
    I have to clarify a bit. Note I said 'in other towns'. There is 
right now the true prospect, altho not an actual certainty, that New 
York will get in a few years its THIRD Zeiss planetarium. We got two 
now, right? One here at Hayden and the other at Bronx High School of 
    The possible new third one is also in the Bronx! The Carl Sagan 
Discovery Center in Norwood is building a 'space station' for space 
and astronomy. In a later phase of its operation a planetarium and 
observatory will be built there. And the likely choice of projector 
may well be a Zeiss. Why? This is New York. 
    Way off-topic but what is this discovery center? Briefly, it's 
really a new hospital for children's diseases. The patients will 'run' 
the place like a spacebase to explore the universe. I presented a talk 
about it at the AAVSO's fall meeting in October 1999, and summarized 
that meeting in the January 2000 issue of EYEPIECE. 
    With nothing more to do I walked around at 13:15 to the front of 
the Museum to enter the subway at the new south adit. Central Park 
West was lined with school buses. Schoolkids gaggled on the sidewalk 
and on the steps of the Museum. Against this crowd, there were very 
few other people around. The streets here and along 81st Street were 
pretty vacant. 
    The subway adit at 79th St, where 79th St would be if it continued 
thru the Museum campus, looks quite the same as before, only newer and 
cleaner. The long ramp to the fare control is redone in the same bland 
white protoIND tile with no ornamentation. The lights, flooring, 
handrails, and other fixtures are of the current style for transit 
    The Museum's entry within the station is still walled off. You 
have to go to the street to enter the Museum. The flooring at platform 
level is a plain square tile gird without the pretty arcs woven into 
the floor at the 81st Street end. So while the place is freshened up, 
it still looks, well, blagh. 
    As I descended to the lower, downtown, platform, I saw that the 
stair walls were fitted with a tile mosaic of blue whales in a sea-
blue ocean. I mean the type of animal is a 'blue whale, not that the 
color of the figure is blue. It's white. This is attractive, yet so 
artificial. It's just slapped up along the stair walls with no 
transition across to the plain bathroom tile elsewhere in the station. 
    The West End local pulled in for my one-seat ride back to work. 
Now that article in New Yorker I didn't see before my visit. I was 
told of it by phone. I, before heading for my office, popped into a 
newsie to get a copy of the magazine. 
SESSION 57 - 2000 JANUARY 27 
    This is not a regular site visit to the Planetarium but I did stop 
by it in the evening of Thrusday the 27th of January in 2000. This day 
was one of the busier ones in the City for astronomy. With the opening 
of the new Planetarium mere weeks away, the Museum began an allpoints 
publicity caamaign for it. One of the projects was a chatshow with the 
City's major astronomers and other notable people. 
    It hired MediaWorks, of SoHo, to do the show. You guessed; it 
invited me as a 'major astronomer'! The shoots were on three days, the 
27th thru the 29th. I figured to go on the 27th, being that I had to 
stick around in the City for the Association's Recent Advances Seminar 
on that evening. Fine, the producer said, come to the Museum at 16:30. 
    When I arrived a greeter from the video company took me and a 
couple other show guests to a studio built into the fourth floor of 
the Museum. We were put under makeup to remove shiny spots from our 
faces. (Go figure, I thought I was picked because I was a shining 
    I didn't meet the other guests in this shoot, but they looked like 
professionals or academics. We were prepped up separately and there 
was no real chance to get acquainted. Anyway, the show was done for 
each of us one by one. 
    I sat on a tall stool, like a draftman's or bookkeeper's stool, 
against a white screen. The moderator sat off camera and asked chatty 
questions about astronomy and the whole shibang. The intent was for us 
to just give what ever answer came to mind first in what ever words 
came to mouth first. ON, the first go around I did just that. 
    The moderator jumped up and flagged his crew to abort the shoot. 
    Obviously, this could not be taken too litterally. He reset 
everything for a fresh run, with some more purposeful coaching. In all 
we went thru about ten hindoos before the moderator was satisfied with 
my episode. When all was done one of the crew led me back out to the 
first floor, the path being so mazelike I could never have gotten out 
on my own. 
    I can't say for sure that my piece will be included in the 
Museum's promo, to be aired on local television in the weeks to come. 
I figure if the outfit went thru the trouble of redoing my bit over 
and over again it probably really wanted to get me in the final cut. 
    Outside, at quite 17:30 EST, it was dark. Being that I had to go 
to 81st St for the crosstown bus, I might as well see what's with the 
Planetarium at night. This would be my first night visit to the site. 
    The place was darkened except for area lighting inside. The Hayden 
Sphere under the ambient lighting really looked like it was some 
cosmic creature about to pop up out of the Cube. Thru the front 
entrance hall, some leftover ladders and scaffolding were still 
standing. The grounds were quiet. Only an occasional worker in winter 
outerwear walked by. 
    The Planetarium is still recruiting for its astronomers. Several 
Association members are onboard the staff in various ranks, ranging 
from attendants to researchers to even the very director himself. This 
unique feature of New York dates to the first days of the old Hayden 
Planetarium in the mid 1930s. Here it was recognized ab initio that a 
center for astronomy must be a genuine peerage union of the home and 
campus astronomer. There can be no artificial lacuna between the 
'professional' and 'amateur' realms of the profession, as there is in 
so many other planetaria across the country. In town after town there 
were bloody clashes between the home astronomy club and the 
sternemeisters under the dome. Both camps suffered, with 
disintegration of the club or deterioration of the planetarium. 
    Readers here will definitely remind me of the story in New York in 
the 1970s and 1980s. Hell, they already did, which is why I'm pointing 
all this out here. In that era, the management of the old Hayden 
Planetarium rampaged out of astronomy. It revoked the facility from 
the astronomy world and harassed the Association. Some commentators 
made hay with the situation. Others saw it as a portent of their own 
    It was exactly this bogus fracture of the profession into 
antagonistic camps that visits heavy casualties on both. In the case 
of the old Hayden, the rest of the campus astronomers shunned its 
delegates, withheld favors, waved off invites for meetings, headhunted 
its remaining better crew. 
    But in New York, what would have been a messy cultural and civic 
disaster was turned aside. Man, it wasn't easy! Lawsuits, pitched 
debates, costly studies, community unrest were chapters in the epic 
'How the stars were won'. 
    The old Planetarium is today hunks of brick and scraps of ornament 
in an exhibit, side by side with skulls and fossils. 
    The new Planetarium, its Hayden Sphere floating in the glass Cube, 
tells the world that this profession will be for the 21st century a 
enduring pattern in the fabric of the City. Its threads and sequins 
are made of both campus and home astronomers. 
    Except for a couple special presentations to dignitaries, there 
were no general preview tours of the new Planetarium. The staff is 
busy into long hours to get the place pumped up for the grand opening 
itself. So, folks, mark this date on your calendar: Saturday, the 19th 
of February. Tickets for the skyshow within the Hayden Sphere are 
about sold out by the time you read this photoessay. Tickets for the 
exhibits and halls are freely available. 
    The Planetarium has already lined up hundreds of tours from March 
thru the rest of the year! Astronomers -- from home and campus -- are 
revving up buses, fueling planes, energizing trains to visit the new 
Hayden Planetarium. A lowball -- and I mean under pessimist 
circumstances -- the Planetarium will field IN THIS VERY YEAR ALONE 2-
1/2 million visitors. This excedes the lifetime attendance of most 
other American planetaria, except for the very largest ones in the 
major towns. 
    I must remind that the Planetarium is but one element of the 
entire Rose Center for Earth and Space Science, occupying most of the 
north flank of the Museum. The Planetarium itself, altho it has over 
twice the gross area for exhibits as the old building, has the lesser 
portion of the Center's offerings. The other halls total about 8 
metric acres, equivalent to eight floors in one of the towers of the 
World Trade Center. So when you come to the Planetarium don't miss 
this other stuff. 
    It snowed a few days ago. The Museum in plowing the sidewalks 
around the campus, pushed mounds of snow against the chainlink fence. 
Then the temperature fell -- it was about -10C on this evening -- so 
the snow froze into clinker ice. I had to kick out footholds in the 
ice to get up close to the fence. 
    The park looked pretty much ready to open. At least there were no 
obvious remanents of material or equipment laying about. The new lamps 
were already turned on. Yes, they are the star friendly ones I 
described in the last photoessay. The more distant lamps were gentle 
glowing globes while the closer ones gave off a bright illumination. 
With snow on the ground, the illumination was amplified to the point 
that there were very few really dark spots in the park. The color is, 
at least to me, an aqua tint, not fully blue or green and certainly 
not white. 
    The air was definitely chilly. A nasty breeze flowed over the 
street. I had a couple shots left in my camera. I did some 
snapshooting in the afternoon at work. I emptied the camera at the 
Planetarium using ambient light exposure. Then I walked to the busstop 
at 81st Street and Central Park West. 
    This bus route during January was fitted with a brandnew fleet of 
vehicles. These are articulated buses, with a bellows joining the 
front and read sections. Now, I'm hardly any great fan of buses but 
these were sort of weird. In a minute or two one of these snaked down 
81st Street and slithered into the busstop. The thing was half again 
longer than a regular one-piece bus, something like 18 meters long! 
    One thing I noticed right away was that the length of the bus 
could put a rider rather far from the doors. I squeezed my way to the 
rear door. Despite the longer more capacious vehicle, it was filled to 
the rafters with riders. At each stop there was a much longer dwell 
while riders edged down the aisle to the door to get out. 
    The bellows thingie about 2/3 of the way back seemed to be an 
allway joint. The two sections rocked and rolled in all directions as 
the bus careered thru Central Park to the east side of Manhattan. On 
the floor there was a round plate which turned this way and that with 
the motion of the bus. And on this plate, right within its edges, were 
four regular bus seats, two on each side facing inward with their 
backs against the bellows! They, when the bus was stretched out 
straight, lined up with the other seats in the solid sections. Riders 
in these seats must have gotten seasick. 
    At Lexington Av I bailed out, this stop being next to several 
eateries  where I would rustle up some supper. I feasted on a jumbo 
bagel and shmultz (for the remote reader, this is a puffy doughy roll 
with a hole in the middle and stuffed with cream cheese) and coffee. 
This place is newish, maybe a year old, and is very popular for a 
quick bite. It's mostly a pastry & bakery shop. . 
    It now being near to 18:30 I walked back to Park Avenue for the 
Recent Astronomy Seminar. This, at first, looks like a roundtable 
free-for-all of home astronomers debating the mysteries of the 
universe. Many astronomy clubs have such a group and they are quite a 
draw for their members. The one in New York is actually a bit unusual. 
The members tend to be more wisely in astronomy and they use the 
academic and technical journals as sources. 
    The Seminar was about beginning when I stepped into the office. 
Some ten members were gearing up for discussing recent news from 
magazines, newspapers, journals, and Internet. Most of the topics 
bantered about at this session were sparked by items in the Science 
Times section of the NY Times. Sessionaries (I made that one up) 
brought in other material to elaborate on the newspaper articles. 
    Normally the Seminar lasts an hour and a half, aftter which 
several of the sessionaries repair to a nearby coffee shop for supper. 
Today was special. The Association's newsletter EYEPIECE had to be 
mailed out tonight. It fell out that the issue was received from our 
printer a bit late and it was convenient to do the mailing at the 
Seminar in the stead of calling a crew separately for this task. 
    With about eight members staying for the mailing the work went 
thru quickly. Some applied the address labels, others folded, others 
stapled. Finally the postage stamps were stuck on. Until a year ago we 
had to lick or wet the stamps, a sloppy and tedious chore. We now use 
only the stickon stamps which come on glossy sheets much like the 
address labels. 
    In anticipation of the mailing we winded down the Seminar at 
20:00; a couple folk did leave then. With the remaining crew the 
entire half-thousand issues were ready for mailing by 20:45! These 
issues, being first-class mail, we dumped into a mailbox on the next 
corner from the office. 
    No, we long long ago gave up on the bulk-rate mailing. The hassle 
and nuisance of dealing with the postoffice were so irritating that we 
really had trouble assembling a crew to put up with them. We 
eventually just went to first-class mailing and bypassed the 
postoffice completely. With the issues in the mailbox the mailing is 
utterly finished. 
    Some of the crew did take supper, but I was by now a bit tired. I 
went straight home, after a very busy day of astronomy.
SESSION 58 - 2000 FEBRUARY 15 
    With the Hayden Planetarium opening its doors on Saturday the 19th 
of february, this is my final visit to the site in this photoessay 
series. This visit, on Tuesday 15 February 2000, is also the only 
visit with other astronomers (or anyone else, for that matter). Three 
other Association members came along. And it's the only visit to the 
INSIDE of the new facility! 
    Two major events occurred at the beginning of February of 2000. 
FIrst, the Museum's website,, was completely rebuilt to 
highlight the Rose Center. That's the large central picture on the 
homepage, with the ball-in-cube motif. The site has a detailed 
description of the Rose Center with pictures. The site does require a 
fast and wide Internet tie because of the heavy graphics and 
animations. To view the tour of the Rose Center you have to install 
the Ipix plugin, which can be downloaded from this site by a link. 
    As glitzy as the Museum's new website is, I was terribly 
disappointed with it. OK, the Rose Center IS a stupendous addition to 
the Museum. Probably, due to geographic constraints, it is the very 
final major addition to the campus. But it's not everything. The 
homepage banners the Rose Center and only two other features. One is 
an exhibit of the Millennium Time Capsule. The other is one on body 
art. Everything else about the immense and huge and enormous American 
Museum of Natural History is buried in a thin row of tabs at the 
bottom of the page! 
    After swimming around in the Rose Center section for awhile I gave 
up. I couldn't find a floor plan, directory of exhibits, not even a 
briefing to organize a visit. I tried the construction section. Only a 
couple of small pictures. I grant that the Museum itself made a far 
more comprehensive photoessay of the works than I did, if by no more 
means than the birdhouse on the grounds. But if it for some weird 
reason hired my pictures the panorama of the project would have been 
altogether more majestic. 
    The other event is that to give the new Planetarium a thoro 
stress-test, it allowed its own members to preview the place. Museum 
members could pick up tickets for free to visit the Rose Center and 
take in a skyshow. Over the past two weeks, a couple dozen Association 
members, who are also Museum members, did get their first looks. At 
the Recent Astronomy Seminar of February 10th and the Observing Group 
meeting of February 12th members who saw the Planetarium offered 
tickets to those who did not yet see it. 
    After opening, tickets cost $9.50 for adults, somewhat less for 
children and seniors. If you get tickets by phone, mail, or Internet, 
you'll be charged this price plus the suggested donation to enter the 
Museum. The total is then $19 per adult. This sounds like an 
incredibly stiff price to see a planetarium show. it is. 
    Yet thruout the entire history of the Hayden Planetarium the price 
of a skyshow ticket was always on the high side compared to regular 
cinemas. When the place first opened, the damage was 50 cents -- and 
this was during the Depression -- about a hour's pay for most working 
people. And it was twice the price of a cinema ticket! 
    You can mitigate the damage by first entering the Museum by what 
ever donation you are comfortable with. It must accept what you offer 
despite the intimidating signs. Then get the separate skyshow ticket 
at the Planetarium's frontdesk. Note, too, that higher categories of 
Museum membership bypass the suggested donation and pay only the 
specific $9.50 fee for the skyshow. 
    An other way to ease the pain is to buy a CityPass. This is mainly 
for tourists to give entree to six major attractions of the City. 
These are the Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern 
Art, World Trade Center, Empire State Building, and Intrepid Air-Sea-
Space Museum. This costs $28, substantially less than the sum of the 
individual admissions. Get this pass from a tour or travel agent 
before your visit to the City or at the ticket desk at one of the 
sites after you get here. Note well that CityPass does NOT include the 
skyshow; you must still buy that ticket at the Planetarium ticket 
    So I got a pass for the 13:00 skyshow on Tuesday, the 15th of 
February in 2000. I took the whole afternoon off from work, being that 
I wanted to check out an other exhibits and then go tend to my 
astronomy class at the Association headquarters. I prepared for this 
special visit by having a new roll of film in my camera and an extra 
roll in my pocket. 
    I arrived at the Planetarium by the two-seat ride and emerged into 
a crisp cool brilliant sunny day. Temperature was about 5C with a 
refreshing breeze. The Sun was blazing. For the preview the two gates 
were open for foot traffic, while the park remained fenced off. 
    And so for the first time in over 2-1/2 years I walked down the 
circular drive to the front apron of the Planetarium. I waited for the 
other members. It wa now quite 13:10 EST. I passed the time by 
photographing the structure at various close angles. 
    In the new apron were some of the bronze swirls or 'galaxies' that 
were dug out of the old apron. They were originally a gift from an 
artist who was thrilled by a laserium show and, presumably, arranged 
the galaxies in some certain way. I can't believe any regard for the 
original scheme was held in placing the swirls into the new apron. But 
there they are. 
    One thing some purists will protest against. The headsign on the 
new Planetarium proclaims it as the Rose Center. The Hayden 
Planetarium name is on the wall next to the arch, lower down and in 
smaller letters. I would think that virtually everyone will call this 
particular building the Hayden Planetarium and know it as an element 
within the Rose Center. In fact, just the sky theater in the Hayden 
Sphere -- which is now called the Great Sphere -- is the actual Hayden 
Planetarium. Even the main floor with the exhibits is named for an 
other patron (I forget),, the So-&-So Hall of the Universe. 
    Soon, like maybe on the following train, Ken Brown, Tom Clabough, 
and Dennis Ferguson ambled down the drive. We entered thru the new 
main doors under the stone arch 
    The greeter advised that the place is not open to the public yet, 
because there were lots of passers by who saw the place 'open' and 
tried to enter. We showed our tickets and were let thru to the 
interior hall. The coat check was downstairs, as was the giftshop. 
    Right away, probably from my eye for construction, I saw this 
Planetarium was far from complete. Everywhere there were workers 
fixing, assembling, adjusting. Safety tape was still strung around 
certain areas, certain stairs were still closed. The giftshop was 
still bare of its goods. Workers were busily unpacking crates to fill 
the shelfs but they were no way near to receiving customers. 
    From the coatroom we proceded into the main floor, one story below 
the street, now called Hall of the Universe. We wanted to explore the 
exhibits here but the ushers shooed us to an escalator for the 
skyshow. From the escalator, which brought us back to street level, I 
saw a veritable battalion of ushers all shepherding people around the 
floor. By the end of my visit I would see something like fifty floor 
walkers in all parts of the Planetarium. 
    This is astounding. Other halls of the Museum have a couple of 
ushers, typicly at the entry doors. But 50? Assuming a modest salary 
of $25,000 each -- without benefits or perks -- that's already a cool 
one million in payroll per year. If I allow for professional and 
support crew, at reasonably higher salaries, the payroll, raw base 
payroll, of the Planetarium is at least $5 million per year. 
    Let's see what happens. To meet just this minimum estimate of 
payroll how many paying customers must the Planetarium host each year? 
First off the revenue per visitor is NOT $9.50. With discounts and 
children rates the averaged out rate is more like $8 per person. Thus 
right away the Planetarium needs 625,000 paying visitors per year. 
    The skyshow will not be filled completely each time. Say the 
theater hosts 312 over all the year. Then there must be 2,000 shows in 
the year. The Planetarium will be open most days, but allow for some 
closings, so let's have 350 working days. That's 5 to 6 shows every 
working day. 
    This is not a wild estimate after all. However, these shows fill 
only 2-1/2 hours of the day (20 minutes each with 10 minutes change 
over). Besides salary there are other running costs: supplies, 
contract services, utilities, repairs, travel, hosting guests, fees 
and honoraria, crew benefits and perks, equipment rental, temporary 
crew, replacements, and more. I have no idea what this can amount to. 
Let's say that because my salary estimate is on the low side, that the 
rest is thrice this salary. The Planetarium needs to take in $15 
million per year. 
    This bumps up the shows to fifteen per day! Yet this is more like 
the proposed schedule. Shows will run for 7 or 8 hours of the day. And 
these fifteen shows will serve thrice the visitors I noted above, or 
1,875,000. This, too, is surprisingly close to the low estimate of the 
number of paying visitors actually expected. Toss in the free or low 
rate customers (school children, mostly) and we end up with a 
potential annual visitorship of 2.5 million. 
    Do understand that all of the above is my very own guessitmate and 
there is nothing what so ever official from the Planetarium. 
    I also saw that this main floor communicated with the rest of the 
Rose Center halls without impedence. In fact, you can 'visit the 
Planetarium' with no extra fee once inside the Museum. By this I mean 
you can explore the Hall of the Universe (which on this visit I would 
miss completely) but not enter the skyshow itself. This is actually 
how many other planetaria built into a museum do things. The exhibits 
are in the open halls but the very dome is under a separate extra 
    Maybe because this was a preview and we were guinea pigs in a 
shakedown cruise of the place, no one gave us or referred us to 
litterature about the Rose Center. No guide brochure, description of 
features, floor plan were evident any where in the Planetarium. 
Without preparation we had little notion of what to expect. We ended 
up flowing with the crowd under direction from the floor walkers. 
    Way later, as I was leaving, I stopped at an information table set 
up in the main entry hall. No, no one there had any good litterature. 
    From the top of the escalator, on a level with the street but in 
the back (south) side of the Cube, we were vectored onto elevators. By 
now a good crowd of a couple hundred folk accumulated. The floor were 
roped off into cattle chutes and we bumped forward every several 
    The elevator took us up three more floors to the forebay -- for 
want of a gentler term -- of the sky theater. There is one escalator 
continuously loaded with visitors and three elevators working in relay 
to move the crowd toward the Hayden Sphere. 
    Greeters in this forebay handed out what looked like souvenir 
postcards, which I slipped into my pocket to inspect later. One of the 
other members saw it was a 'passport' allowing the bearer to travel 
anywhere in the universe. The face was a wiggle picture of the 
heavens. Each angle of view emphasized Earth, solar system, and so on, 
to the whole universe itself. You  are supposed to sign the back to 
validate it! For me, this was a mighty corny thing. And the greeter 
never said anything about it. She just shoved them into our hands. 
    The forebay is spacey-spooky with an authoritatively-voiced 
narration that after a few repeats got pretty annoying. Scenes from 
the skyshow were displayed on two monitors near the ceiling. Once in a 
while the narration faltered or broke off, a glitch requiring 
attention before opening day. 
     Every so often the narration over the PA warned against eating, 
drinking, or smoking in the sky theater. It did not say anything about 
camera flash! One of the great nuisances of any planetarium is the 
bloke who tries to take a photo of the show. Result: a blinding 
lightning bolt in everyone's eyes. To mess up matters more, the 
website specificly encourages handheld cameras with flash within the 
Museum, with no exception claimed for the Hayden Sphere. 
    The forebay filled up with people. Soon we got to sort of goofing 
around. We swopped jokes and made wisecracks about our 'fate' inside 
the Hayden Sphere. The sky theater holds 430ish people, yet the mass 
of visitors seemed far larger. The effect was all from the confined 
and dark quarters we were packed into. 
    After a many minute dwell time here the doors to the Hayden Sphere 
were opened and we all streamed inside. Now from previous member 
visits we learned that the best seats were the second or third row 
directly opposite the entrance doors. That is, we should hustle 
straight across the floor, on top of the hidden Zeiss projector, and 
take the 2nd or 3rd row of seats. 
    This is a change from the old dome, whose best seats were the 2nd 
from the rim in back of the projection console. The selection of best 
seats is a compromise between having the Zeiss machine in your face 
(sitting in the first row) and suffering severe perspective distortion 
on the dome (sitting near the rim). 
    We nestled in comfortable seats, well cushioned and with vinyl 
trimming. They were loose enough to squirm without binding the clothes 
or knocking into the adjacent guest. One hyped up feature is that the 
seats rumble to simulate rocket thrusts, stellar explosions, and the 
like. I'll tell you this. It's more of a gentle tremor, like that felt 
in a building next to a subway or a large ventilating machine. No, the 
seat does not rock and bounce. No, there are no seat belts. i had my 
monocular and Ken had regular binoculars. He, Tom, and Dennis were 
later going to the Winter Garden, in the World Finance Center, to see 
Mercury at sunset. 
    The dome was washed in sky blue light. It was nice and clean! the 
old Planetarium dome was downright filthy from lack of cleaning. With 
everyone seated, the doors were shut, and sky darkened. The narration 
for the show was by Tom Hanks, who sort of reminded me of the 
legendary Fred Hess in voice. 
    He announced the uprising of the Zeiss machine. Spotlights turned 
on to illuminate 'It' emerging from its lair in full blossom. Then it 
started to do its thing on the sky. The opening scene is the full 
force sky with a dropdead realistic Milky Way. This looked as if it 
were made from the Lund Observatory mosaic. It looked by eye like the 
Milky Way of darksky sites I went to on various eclipse trips. The 
band was richly textured with the dust and nebulae all over it! Thru 
the monocular I found many of the clusters that dot the Milky Way. 
Ken, too, with his binoculars spotted many deepsky features. 
    The stars from the Zeiss are dropdead pinpoints. And they twinkle. 
In the monocular they remained very small dots, not obvious discs. One 
difference I found was that the star magnitudes seemed compressed as 
compared to the real sky. This made the really faint constellations 
more visible and tempered the brilliance of Canopus and Sirius. 
    I can not walk you thru the entire show, but do offer general 
comments. The animations are truly spectacular. The planets, stars, 
the Orion Nebula look like you really are flying past them. Everything 
moves in 3D with perspective, phases, foreshortening. I did notice 
that the planets, on the swing out of the solar system, were a little 
soft. Probably this is due to the fact these were generated on the fly 
by computer and there's a limit to the pixelation that still allows 
for fast motion. Nevertheless, the effect is good. 
    There is no lecturer -- or even a console for one -- in the Hayden 
Sphere. What happens to the arrow pointer? There isn't any! In the 
stead a crosshair is pinned on the target of attention! Actually in 
this show most of the action takes place over the entrance doors or in 
the zenith. There was little cause to squirm around in the seats 
except to see the planets loom out of the horizon behind you. 
    Altho immense pains must be been suffered to make the images as 
real as possible, some shortfalls were evident. Galaxies looked too 
stylized, with powder-puff spiral arms. Nebulae in the Zeiss sky were 
merely generic patches in the monocular. This does not mean to say the 
overall effect is dulled; it isn't. You'll come away thoroly awed. 
    This show, now called a Space Show, lasted about twenty minutes. 
The audience is let out a second door and onto a rectilinear ramp. 
This ramp was not highlighted in the promos like the timeline ramp. 
Yet it is equally important. This ramp hugs the perimeter of the 
Planetarium and has stations for the power-of-ten. This is a classical 
exhibit featured in many science museums. Each station, about a 
ha'meter long on the ramp, has the Hayden Sphere being so many meters 
across. In comparison the little picture on the ramp's rail, or a 
little ball mounted on it, represents such-&-such thing in the 
    It's hard NOT to engage the Hayden Sphere in this place! It's, uh, 
humongous. And there is it right in front of you all the time. It's 
the largest spherical structure the public can walk around inside of. 
There are vastly larger spheres, like for soybean oil or liquefied 
gas, but you can't occupy them. Some readers here noted that the 
Perisphere was larger but no one seems to know for sure. 
    Here were more of the incomplete parts of the facility. Some of 
the panels were missing, replaced by blank slips. Panels didn't match 
up squarely, leaving sharp edges to catch fingers on. The railing in 
places had burrs or raw edges. A couple of the little balls were 
missing! Only their studs were left. I don;t know if these balls were 
still in preparation or if some nefarious previous visitor liberated 
    The balls were surprisingly bland, just colored wood, plastic, 
metal globes. One for a globular cluster had nothing at all to 
simulate its stellar makeup. I would have liked to see a mass of 
fiberoptics with twinkling tips. One for a star (I forget which) had 
no granulation, spots, or even an internal light. It was just a plain 
old yellowish plastic ball. Uf you were expecting the mother of George 
Awad models, fuggedabouddit. 
    At an early station right after leaving the skyshow, I felt 
uprising heat from under the railing. At first I took it to be some 
allusion to temperature or energy for the instant object. Closer 
inspection revealed that the warm air was nothing more than space 
heating. Along the entire length of the Power-of-Ten ramp are heating 
vents. Only certain ones were running during my visit. 
    I was surprised at the erratic legibility of the captions and 
signs, a feature I would find all over the Planetarium later. Some 
were nice and contrasty and easily seen au courant along the ramp. 
Others were in light colors which were hard to separate from the light 
colored plate they sat on. Later I would find signs with translucent 
backing that under certain ambient light camuflaged the lettering, 
video screens with too tiny writing, and panels set so low I had to 
stoop to see. 
    By the same token (hey, so I'm dated) I do have to say with 
pleasure that of the material I did read, all was competent, accurate, 
correct. I found nothing that was unduly exaggerated or faked or 
mistaken. Hence, to the extent that the captioning is fixed up you'll 
get a good nourishment of astronomy information. 
    This ramp covered the range of, if I recall properly, 1e23 meters 
to 1e-19 meters, or from the entire universe to some subsubatomic 
particle. It wrapped around the east, north, west and part of the 
south sides of the Cube for around 100 meters. 
    At the end was the entrance to the Big Bang Theater. The 
Planetarium dared not to call it the Creation Theater, for the 
allusion to the emotional belief that the universe was fashioned 
within a week or so. As people trickled down the Power-of-Ten ramp 
they bunched up at the entry door of the theater in the lower part of 
the Hayden Sphere. Ushers there collected about thirty people and let 
them inside. 
    The Big Bang Theater is one of the more pumped up expectations 
bannered by the Museum. It's supposed to show how the universe began. 
I found it to be a big blip. The room was a darkened arena about 6 
meters across. In the middle was a circular pit ringed bu a leaning 
rail. About thirty people could stand comfortably around this pit, 
which has no name but I call it the Big Bang Bowl. 
    Jodie Foster narrates this show, as being an expert in cosmology 
from her trip to Vega and subsequent pregnancy. She explains how the 
universe was a dot of pure energy that exploded. Then a loud 
firecracker noise issues from the bowl. A bright dot appears and 
'explodes' out all over the bowl. The blobs morph into smaller ones, 
then into galaxies. She concludes with a reminder to examine the 
Cosmic Pathway -- the timeline ramp -- when we leave. The whole 
shibang lasts only a fat minute. 
    This is to me such a silly exhibit. It's like something in a mid 
American museum. Oh, yes, there is computer generated action, yet it 
comes off, well, ech. What's more, the exit door was open for most of 
this presentation. This filled the room with bothersome outside light. 
This door should be closed until the bigbang is complete. 
    The timeline ramp, the Cosmic Pathway, spirals from the Big bang 
theater to the ground level floor for about 100 meters. Each step, 
assumed to be a ha'meter, represents 65 million years. One centimeter 
is 1.3 million years. 
    Atop the outer wall are stations for each billion years. On the 
face of the wall are pictures for the objects and events at that 
spot's place in history. The distance from Earth, or the lookback 
time, is indirectly cited in the redshift of the feature. This is 
plain Z, not Z+1. Occasionally there's a touchscreen on top of the 
wall. Many were out of action. 
    The others I found hard to read in the brilliant ambient light. 
Remember that the Planetarium is fully exposed to the outside with its 
ice-clear glass walls. It's like watching television while facing a 
skylighted window. Screens facing away from the glass walls suffered 
from direct light falling on them. 
    The panels on the face of the outer wall were too low for grownups 
to read. Either they have to stand back and be intervened by other 
visitors or they must stoop or lean at the wall. It evens out I 
suppose. Children can not comfortably operate the screens on top of 
the wall. 
    This ramp is a bit unusual. The presently assessed age of the 
universe under the standard bigbang is 13 billion years. This is not a 
firm fact but a working number to guide observations and studies. 
Please understand that nothing is mentioned about the Guth inflation 
stage; everything is based on a straight Friedmann model. 
    It's plausible that the age will be revised in the years to come. 
To account for this prospect, the timeline ramp panels can be refitted 
with scenes appropriate for the new age assessment. The physical 
length of the ramp is fixed; the distribution of the scenes along it 
will fit the new scale. 
    There were here misaligned panels, missing panels, rough edges on 
fittings, light leaks around pictures, and loose marker signs. On the 
floor of the ramp were two technicolor bands running the whole length. 
I don't know what these were for and there was no information about 
    I noticed that many people, having seen the skyshow, the Power-of-
Ten ramp, and the Big Bang Theater, were tired. They skipped down this 
Cosmic Pathway like an ordinary exit without examining the stations. 
    At the end of the ramp, at floor level, was a plastic cell 
containing a [Jodie Foster's?] human hair. The thickness, 1/10 
millimeter, stands for the entire 13,000 years of human recorded 
    Let's back up a bit. The fee for the skyshow covers four major 
exhibits of the Planetarium, a fact not well pointed out. Everyone who 
hasn't seen the place assumes they get only the 20-minute skyshow for 
that $9.50. You actually see the skyshow first, then the Power-of-Ten 
ramp, the Big Bang (yes, it's two words here) Theater, and lastly the 
Cosmic Pathway. Only after you step off of the Cosmic Pathway at the 
present era do you return to the free-range area of the Planetarium. 
    While the skyshow is 20 minutes and the Big bang boom is only a 
minute or two, you can spend all the time you want on the ramps. No 
one rushes you. It can take a half hour on each if you study several 
of the stations, thus easily filling an hour and a half for that 
    While on the ramps, and probably due to my engineering career, I 
saw no way to escape from them in the event of fire. There's no way to 
quickly erect rescue ladders to the ramps from a fire brigade that 
arrived on the scene. The Cosmic Pathway isn't so terrible. Ushers can 
urge people downward to the floor and then to safety. 
    The Power-of-Ten ramp, being much higher and with no direct exit 
to safety, is an other issue. It ties at each end to the Hayden 
Sphere, the most likely place for a fire from the mass concentration 
of electricity and occupancy by visitors. It may be feasible in a 
given situation to open both gates of the Big bang Theater, rush 
people thru it onto the Cosmic Pathway, and then march them to the 
floor. But that's over a hundred meter walk under a panic state. 
    Within the sky theater people could be released thru the entrance 
gate. But that puts them in the constricted forebay with apparently 
only elevators to move them away. I didn't notice alternative stairs. 
    I saw nothing to prevent a visitor with no skyshow ticket from 
walking UP the timeline ramp all the way back to the exit of the Big 
Bang theater. I can't imagine that an usher will stop from traveling 
backwards in time. The Big Bang Theater is as far as you could go. It 
is an obvious exit and an usher there will remind you as he moves 
people from inside onto the ramp. 
    Somewhere in the bigbang I lost the other members. They probably 
went ahead while I studied some of the Power-of-Ten panels. I hope 
they did spot Mercury. The sky was ice blue with a blinding Sun. So 
the night should have been perfect for seeing the little planet over 
the Hudson River. 
    While on the ramps I examined the glass walls. The glass is 
utterly transparent. Someone explained a few days ago that this glass 
is a special blend that is iron-free. I don't know what iron has to do 
with the transparency of the this glass, but it is, well, clear. It 
also seems to stifle reflections. The Sun, as dazzling as it was, made 
only annoying reflections, not really bright enough to avert the 
sight, just a nuisance. 
    There is no way to modulate the ambient light from the sky or Sun. 
No blinds, louvers, mirrors, tinting temper the incoming light. What 
ever flows into the Cube, that's what you must get around with. I 
hazard that at night under artificial controllable lamps the 
illumination must be well executed. I just haven't seen the facility 
at night yet. By day, expect anything from eye-blinding direct Sun in 
summer months to gloomy gray under storms. 
    I also saw the patio atop the garage. This is still under work and 
not accessible to anyone other than workers. It is not reachable 
directly from the Planetarium. In fact there is a safety barrier of a 
pool between it and the west wall of the Planetarium. An usher 
explained that the patio opens sometime in the late spring. 
    There's a heavy psychological effect of the Planetarium. It 
communicates with the outside thru the walls. the glass being so 
clear, it seems like you can just walk out to the street. You see the 
towers across 81st Street and Central Park. I suppose when the place 
is humming with visitors the people outside will visually interact 
with the people on the ramps. 
    This sets the Planetarium quite apart from others. Not even the 
Air & Space Museum in Washington DC accomplishes this, despite its 
massively huge glass walls. That museum fronts the vast empty space of 
the Mall. There is no 'town' around it at all. Adler and Griffith 
stand far off from their towns as if fearing to touch them. Fels and 
Boston Hayden are buried within their museums with no view of the town 
around them. Here in New York, whether by design or happy spinoff, the 
stars are united with the City, to emphasize that here, and only here, 
the universe is the upper half of the cityscape. 
    Now alone with the others long separated from me, I wanted to see 
the main, lower, floor. Ushers barred my, and others's, way for the 
floor was momentarily closed. Workers were moving crates and tubs of 
gear into it. I reached this Hall of the Universe by an incredibly 
rattling stairway that clanked under my feet. Ushers explained it has 
to be tightened later. 
    Thruout the Planetarium I hit, litterally, upon many fixtures and 
fittings that snagged my fingers. Many were in structures not yet 
complete, with missing covers or exposed bolts and sharp parts. Others 
seemed to be design flaws. Some banisters, for example, are in segments 
with gaps. The standoffs and fittings at the gaps easily caught my 
    So now on the ground level I took a good look at the Hayden Sphere 
and the ramps wrapping around it. The people were like toys trudging 
along them. Wait! Where was this scene played out before in the City? 
Yes! This is a page right from the book of Norman Bel-Gedde! He 
designed many of the pavilions of the last great World's Fair on 
Earth, back in 1939. His theme was immense massive smooth rounded 
structures that belittled the visitors, sort of a 'big brother' school 
of architecture. 
    Bel-Gedde in the planetarium world is a whole other character. 
he's the guy who wanted to tear down the Hayden Planetarium! Under 
Robert Moses in 1941 he did a study of the still-new Planetarium to 
improve it. His report is now a treasured relic among planetarium 
    Bel-Gedde was unversed in astronomy. He, for instance, thought 
comets fly from nebula to nebula. And he was turned off by pictures of 
the celestial wonders which were only in black-&-white. In his report 
he made several proposals for rejuvenating the Planetarium, including 
replacing it with a whole new facility. 
    Did Polshek, architect of this here and now Hayden Planetarium, 
slyly embed Bel-Gedde in this structure? Could Bel-Gedde from his 
grave be whispering, 'See? I told you how to fix up that place'. 
Anyway, there's the Hayden Sphere in the flesh. 
    With the main floor closed, how can I get back to the coat check 
on that floor? Ushers steered me to a most roundabout trek to a far 
out-of-way stairs. Once on the lower level the way was clear to get my 
coat and saddle up. 
    By now, 15:30, I was tired, but not completely so. My camera was 
about exhausted of its film. I did shoot nearly a full 36-frame roll! 
I passed up the other halls of the Rose Center. I can see them anytime 
for they were open for many months already. There was an exhibit I had 
to check out and this is one you must include with your own visit to 
the Planetarium. 
    Directly across the street on 77th Street from the Museum is the 
'other' museum, the New-York Historical Society. 
    This is housed in, compared to the colossus of the Museum, a 
'shack' that costs five dollars to look around in. However, in 
February, March, and April there is one exhibition that makes the 
whole inconceivable phaenomenon of the Hayden Planetarium 
comprehensible. It's 'New York on the Brink' on the second floor. 
    Against any Museum hall, even the older ones outside the Rose 
Center, this show is deader than a doorknob. A bunch of matted and 
framed photos, pictures, posters. A couple cases of artifacts. And a 
cast-off subway turnstile. 
    It offers glimpses into the New York of a generation ago in the 
mid 1970s. If you are under 30 years of age, this is the New York your 
parents reared you in. In those innocent years of your youth there was 
a cataclysm in the making. If you are 40ish or older, you may well 
remember those years. You were in your first career or marriage. You 
may even have fled from the City in that era. 
    Within the living memory of most readers in this room, the City 
sank into a veritable isolated depression that spawned the orthodox 
image of New York as the Nemesis of home astronomy. And, to many, of 
campus astronomy, too. Most of the surly and snide comments about 
astronomy in New York -- that farcical fantasy of fools! -- have their 
roots in the 1970s. 
    And some shyster leaders of the home astronomy world still today 
feed their flock this swill as manna. 
    There was, yes, really a time when the police department had to 
beg for new horses, the West Side Highway was a jogger's path and 
picnic patio, the subways were billboards for graffiti, the Bronx was 
the American Soweto, peasants staged sitins in firehouses. 
    While the entire show can be exploited in a ha'hour, there are two 
pictures you as a home astronomy advocate should study. One is a scene 
of Sheep Meadow in Central Park from 1979. The whole place was a 
parched caked gulch. No one came here: too hard for picnic, too pitted 
for playing, too dusty for sunbathing. At night thugs roved over it. 
Central Park was in other places just as dismal and disgusting. 
    Right below it is an other picture of the same Sheep Meadow in 
1993 at the early stages of the renaissance of the City. It's quite 
like it is today, all green and great. Within a year this rescued 
greensward would be host to an other renaissance in the City. 
    In July 1994 some five thousand townsfolk flowed in this very 
Sheep Meadow to study the bangmarks of comet Shoemaker-Levy-9. Then, 
in September of 1995, more thousands of townsfolk flowed into this 
very Sheep Meadow for an awesome celebration. A celebration other 
towns dare only to hope for their grandchildren. 
    They celebrated the return of the stars to the City. I mean the 
real stars in the real sky. This was the first American Urban Star 
Fest. Since then, in the grandest of manner, this devastitas, icon of 
urban death, transglorified into a hallowed ground among the teeming 
masses of home astronomers. It is on this field of friendly stars 
where the seeds are sown which in other fields under other stars will 
bear the fruits of victory. 
    The American Urban Star Fest is one of the palpable tangible 
resurrections of astronomy in the City. The new Rose Center with the 
Hayden Planetarium is an other. And this is only the beginning. The 
century is young. The universe is vast. From New York you will see it 
    If your were a child in the City in those dark years of the 1970s, 
you may recall your father taking you up the subway steps at 81st 
Street station, walking down the curving path, to the grill gates of 
the Hayden Planetarium. Its insides then reflected the odor of the 
streets outside. 
    Today you can take the hand of your child. Get off at 81st Street 
from a brandnew beautiful train. Walk up the steps of a brandnew 
beautiful station. 
    Stop. Look at the brandnew beautiful Central Park with its soft 
welcoming starsafe lamppoles. See a kilometer to the south the starry 
fields of Sheep Meadow. Gaze along brandnew beautiful Central Park 
West under the moonlight of its starsafe lamps. 
    Now steer your child down that curved brandnew beautiful path. 
Pass by the brandnew beautiful Theodore Roosevelt Park. Arrive at the 
grand arch of the brandnew beautiful Hayden Planetarium. If your kid 
asks if it was always like this, take the two of you to that other 
    And so, what more can I say? 'Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, boys 
and girls, welcome to the American Museum Hayden Planetarium ... .' 
SESSION 59 - 2000 MAY 10
    This is not a regular photoessay; that series was completed with 
my visit ot the Planetarium on 2000 February 15. That essay is session 
#58. What I have here is some tying up of loose ends which I collected 
since February 15th. 
    These additional notes will help you during your visit to the new 
Hayden Planetarium, which in its first weeks of operation is welcoming 
over 10,000 visitors a day. The items here are gathered from several 
visits I made to the Planetarium since opening day, 2000 February 19, 
in the course of my astronomy business and personal curiosity. To 
these are added comments relayed to me by other astronomers who 
visited the Planetarium. 
    Remember I was annoyed that there was no floor plan or visitor 
guide? Now it seems there's a dedicated rail spur into the Museum just 
for delivery of such litterature. Guides and plans for the Rose Center 
are EVERY WHERE. The general plan for the entire Museum is a 
newsletter-size foldout issued in several languages. The nonEnglish 
versions are slimmer than the English one but are laid out in easier 
to read style. If you know any of the other languages you'll do better 
with that plan because some of the Museum halls are dimly lighted. If 
you know none of the foreign languages try the Italian or Spanish map. 
The words are more similar to Latin, which as an astronomer you'll 
readily pick up the meaning. 
    The Rose Center guide, only in English at the desk I got mine at, 
is more like a bus or train timetable foldout. With lots of nice 
pictures and clear maps, it shows what's where thruout the premises. 
There's a caution about the floor numbers in the Museum. They can be 
confusing. The entire Museum is set into a shallow basin hollowed out 
of Manhattan Square. The floor you land on by walking down the walks 
or drives from 77th St, Central Park West, or, now, the Planetarium 
entrance is the First Floor, even tho it's one level below the 
surrounding grade. Under this, entered from the IND station, is the 
Lower Level. This is the floor for the Hall of the Universe, the 
exhibit arena under the Hayden Sphere. 
    Entry into the Planetarium is by many avenues. One is the pair of 
gates at the southeast corner of the Cube. If you remember the floor 
plan of the old Museum-Planetarium, there were on the first floor two 
gates in the northwest 'armpit' of the Museum. One led to a short 
covered walkway into the old parking lot. This was the back entrance 
of the Museum for those coming from 81st Street. The other was a 
bronze double door that opened into the old Planetarium building. A 
small ticket booth and turnstile was beyond these doors (as viewed 
from the Museum side). This is how you got into the Planetarium from 
inside the Museum. 
    The cutouts for these gates were enlarged to be entrances to the 
first floor of the new Planetarium. They land you in the same 
southeast corner of the Cube. The reason for keeping the gates as two 
holes in the wall of the Museum is that the zone between them contains 
structural columns. 
    There is an other and new pair of gates on the lower level, 
directly under this pair, that leads directly onto the arena of the 
Hall of the Universe. And an other new adit is by a short stair on the 
east side of the Cube coming from the Hall of Planet Earth. An an 
other on the 2nd floor by a gentle incline. This is how the Museum 
communicates with the power-of-ten ramp. Other avenues of approach are 
under construction in the southwest side of the Cube. 
    The new main entrance of the Planetarium where the old grilled 
gates used to stand, is functionally the new north entrance to the 
entire Museum. Once within the Planetarium you may roam freely thruout 
the Museum. A new hall to the southwest corner of the Cube is under 
construction for a summer 2000 opening. This doubles as a staging area 
for school groups whose buses berth in the new parking garage and also 
communicates with Columbus Avenue as a new western access into the 
    The glass used for the interior barriers and doors seems to be of 
the same ultraclear kind for the walls of the Cube. You can not see 
the stuff! What may look like a thin guardrail on a balcony is 
actually faced with panels made of this glass. You won't lose a child 
by slipping under the rail. But I did see many people accidently 
kicking the panels, for lack of evidence when they looked over the 
    I saw many people collide with the glass doors and barrier walls 
for the same reason. At the main entrance fronting 81sst Street a 
squad of greeters continuously warned of the glass and steered people 
to the doors. 
    The perimeter of the floor, away from the Hayden Sphere, is laid 
with a spiffy stone which some thought was artificially concocted for 
the Planetarium. It's really a natural stone in common use for 
corporate entrance halls and lobbies. It's black but you can see 
several centimeters into it! Embedded in it are flecks of mica that 
throw off rainbow colors when sunlight hits them! The effect is that 
you're walking thru space all glittery with stars. I don't know the 
name of this stone but I see it from time to time in other decorative 
    There is a totally queer feature not evident during the preview. 
When you pay $9.50 (or $19 including the suggested Museum donation) 
you expect to have your visit welcomed, no? Like, punch my ticket. Yet 
on all the visits since opening day there was an astounding sloppiness 
in handling the tickets. There is no true ticket gate! 
    The audience piles into the elevator lobby and ushers sort of gets 
it queued up. The ushers are not terribly attentive to the tickets. I 
saw routinely people with their tickets out ready for taking yet the 
usher waves them by. These people are then perplexed to the max when 
they realize, after getting to the forebay, that they still have their 
    In Europe it's common to pay the admission and walk into a show 
without actually having to present the ticket. In America it's 
universal to have a gatekeeper who collects, punches, mutilates the 
ticket as a sign of positive entry to the show. 
    What's more, when a ticket is collected by an usher, it's just 
pocketed without inspecting it! Tickets are valid only for a 
particular show. You may have found that a show you requested tickets 
for is sold out, yes? Well, I can see how a nefarious soul may slip 
into a show with an uncollected ticket from a previous show. Please be 
fair. If you are let thru with ticket still in hand, please put it 
away as a souvenir of your visit, OK? 
    Paralleling the fiasco with the tickets, is the one with the 
cosmic passports. The passport is a postcard with a wiggle picture on 
one side. It's supposed to let you travel anywhere in the universe, 
once it's signed by the bearer. Yes, it's a fairground sort of 
gimmick. After all, only the bearer of the passport is authorized to 
have it in his possession, got that straight? 
    These are handed out by ushers as you board the elevators. With no 
controlled ducting of the people flow, it's usual to miss out on the 
passport and see the show without it. Near the end of the show a 
comment is made that your passport is now valid but without it the 
audience thinks this is a cute statement. Even if you do get a card, 
the lighting in the forebay is too dim to see it and you'll stuff it 
in your pocket to worry about on the way home. 
    Just about everyone is annoyed with the forebay of the Hayden 
Sphere and the Big Bang theater. The forebay is the large darkened 
arena into which the audience is packed before opening the door to the 
Hayden Sphere. People from the elevators continuously are sent into 
this room until the entire audience is accumulated. This can easily 
take ten or more minutes! 
    The forebay gets crowded, noisy, stuffy. There are only a couple 
seats for the tired or feeble folk. When I went during school group 
visits, the place wa deafeningly loud. 
    There are several video screens hanging from the ceiling all 
showing the same tape. You look at the nearest one. The presentation 
is plain childish and has an overbearing voiceover. After a while most 
everyone stops watching and gets to fidgetting. These screens could 
far better show the exhibits in the Hall of the Universe so people 
know what to look for and how to interpret them. 
    Preparation of the visitors to better appreciate the exhibits is 
sorely needed. For instance, the timeline and power-of-ten ramps are 
so poorly understood that they are treated as fancy exit ramps. People 
commonly walk or skip down them without stopping to admire the caption 
plaques. The video screens in the forebay could illustrate sample 
plaques and tell how to read them. 
    Just before admitting the audience into the sky theater, a hurried 
narration warns against eating, smoking, and other no-nos. After a 
week or so, because of the very misleading advice on the website and 
brochures of the Museum, this now warns against flash pictures. 
    There is no crowd control in this forebay. When the doors open, 
everyone surges forward and groups break apart easily. There are only 
a couple ushers in the dome as hundreds of people rush for seats. 
Altho, I hope, only as many tickets are sold as seats for each show, 
the residual empty seats are tough to find for the last people getting 
into the dome. Yet, so far, on my visits the dome was apparently fully 
packed and by show start I could see no empty seats left. 
    The skyshow performed without incident on each of my visits and no 
one else reported any major glitches. However, there are two major 
points to note. First is that after all the glorious uprising of the 
Zeiss projector at the beginning of the presentation, the machine 
actually only runs for the first couple minutes. It puts up the 
initial sky with the stars and Milky Way. There after the show 
continues from the periphery-mounted computer projectors. 
    This transfer of the performance takes place during the flyby of 
the planets, which soar overhead in 3D full-motion animation. When the 
stars are put back up, they are obviously fuzzy compared to the sky in 
the opening scene of the show. These stars are now projected from the 
peripheral machinery. Probably during the planet parade, while every 
one is focused on the dome, the Zeiss machine retracts into its well. 
When the audience exits, the machine is sound asleep under their feet. 
    The objects moving around on the dome are each accurately 
portrayed according to the best available data. Each known star in the 
Milky Way and each known galaxy in the universe is individually 
addressed for its proper motion and position! Hence, the scenes are 
not artist's concepts or stylized simulations. 
    A brief mention of the technical accuracy was added several weeks 
after opening day, but the audience surely forgets it quickly. To it 
the whole production may just as well be some animation concocted in a 
studio with imagination. 
    All in all, the new Hayden Planetarium, given the immense number 
of objects in its database, moves on the dome about 100 times more 
points than all the other planetaria in the world combined! 
    The skyshow did cost a pretty penny to assemble. It took several 
hours of CPU time at the supercomputing centers of University of 
Illinois and University of California at San Diego to put this show 
together! The actual price is not publicly stated, but computer 
graphics experts who saw the skyshow guesstimate that it must have 
cost about $4 million! 
    Even if it cost 'only' $1 million, that's quite an expensive 
skyshow. For sure there will not be any frequent change of show during 
the year. Two or three changes per year are the most to expect. More 
over, this show is utterly unique to Hayden. No other Planetarium can 
borrow or buy it for they have neither the equipment nor crew to play 
    After the skyshow everyone is let out of the exit door with mass 
chaos as groups try to reassemble. The area beyond the exit door is a 
narrow walkway which leads to a single-lane escalator. Teachers and 
tour guides yell out for their folk to gather around them as streams 
of people crisscross. It takes an uncomfortably long time for the full 
audience to clear out this area. 
    I have one grand correction, one which was not evident during my 
visit during the preview period. The power-of-ten and timeline ramps 
are accessible from the free-range zone of the Museum. They are not 
restricted only to the paying audience of the skyshow. 
    When I and the three other AAAers exited the skyshow on February 
15th we were herded directly onto the power-of-ten ramp. This, by the 
way, is properly named Scales of the Universe. We didn't see any other 
way to enter the ramp, likely from the prodding of the ushers. 
    The Scales of the Universe ramp springs from the 2nd floor of the 
Museum and can be entered directly from that floor. Hence, once having 
gotten into the Museum you can walk the ramp, to and thru the Big Bang 
theater, and down the the Cosmic Pathway ramp. 
    You still have the diode at the Big Bang theater, you may only 
enter at the one side and only exit at the other side. That is, you 
may walk either way along the Scales of the Universe up to the Big 
Bang theater, even backing up to the top and leaving the ramp. You can 
walk either way along the Cosmic Pathway up to the Big Bang theater 
and back to the 1st floor. But you can only procede from the former 
thru the Big Bang theater to the latter. 
    What this means is tat the ENTIRE premises of the Planetarium is 
open for you after admission into the Museum with the sole exception 
of the skyshow itself. You may even, if you choose, see the skyshow, 
leave for the rest of the Museum, and skip the ramps completely. 
    It also means that the ticket price of $9.50 for the skyshow does 
not include inescapably the ramps and Big Bang theater. You're paying 
for JUST that 20ish minute space tour under the dome. Is it worth it? 
That's really an individual assessment. 
    This entree onto the power-of-ten ramp from the Museum floor 
removes my concern for fire safety. People on this ramp may be led 
back to to the top and to safety thru the Museum. 
    An other constant source of annoyance is that Big Bang theater. I 
and other astronomers stopped watching it. I now just walk straight 
thru, as the doors are opened. Most people seem to expect something 
really special to happen and are let down when all they get is a trite 
commentary and some flashing gyrating lights. 
    The lower level, one floor below the street, is the Hall of the 
Universe and has most of the exhibits. If you stand back and study the 
layout there is a flow of topics across the floor. Most people just 
flit from one exhibit to an other with no particular sequence. 
    The exhibits are arranged to leave large open areas here and 
there, specially under the Hayden Sphere. This allows for use of the 
floor for gatherings, like private parties or receptions. There's 
nothing wrong with getting extra use from the space when the 
Planetarium would otherwise sit idle. In fact, if outside nonastronomy 
groups can be attracted to the edifice and pay a suitable rental for 
it, that's all to the better utilization and revenue for astronomy. 
    There are three types of exhibit. One is rows of man-high 'vending 
machines'. These are cabinets faced with backlighted panels described 
a this or that subject of astronomy. They are massed around the floor 
in several arcs, concave to the viewer. The captions are short but 
tightly worded. And large, contrasty, and legible. The illustrations 
are housed in circular lunettes. Many of the cabinets had grills like 
for speakers, but I never heard anything from them on my visits. I did 
hear what seemed to be narration from elsewhere but when I tried to 
track down the source, it was mute. Maybe I missed a pushbutton or 
didn't wait long enough to let the tapes rewind? 
    An other type is a corral with some fancy theme within it. This 
may be an animation, large picture, or an artifact. The coronal 
artifact of the Planetarium is the big meteorite, Willamette, which, 
on account of the present bruhaha about it, is sounded 'wih-LA-mett'. 
And it's spelled with one 'i'; no, it's not Williamette like 'WIH-
    In brief, the Grand Ronde Indian confederation from Oregon state 
claims the meteorite is a tribal treasure and totem. It now has a 
federal claim to make the Museum return it to Oregon! This flap erupts 
every ten or do years when someone in Oregon reads a history book and 
asks why the thing is in New York. 
    Without going into the whole rigamarole here -- hit on 'Willamette 
meteorite' on the Web -- the mother is a unique specimen of meteorite. 
In fact, by some weird celestial process it's a recrystallized steel 
gemstone. Bring with you a nonmetallic rapper, like a hard plastic 
coin or key case. Gently rap on the meteorite. Oh! What a gorgeous 
sound!! Just make SURE to MEVER use anything that may scratch the 
iron. Positively do not try this with the very coin or key itself. 
    In one of the photoessay sessions I explained that the Willamette 
was placed on its stand before the Planetarium was roofed over and the 
Hayden Sphere built above it. It's now well surrounded by structure, 
making it impossible to remove without serious dismantling of the 
Planetarium. There is no clear straight path from it to the street by 
which perhaps a crawler or bridge crane could walk it out of the 
    Yet there is precedent for such dismantling. When the Anighito 
meteorite, the largest on Earth in captivity, was moved from the 
Planetarium to the Hall of Meteorites in the Museum, a cutout was made 
in the side of the old Planetarium. A three-meter square hole was 
punched thru the brick and mortar wall facing the parking lot. The 
iron, all of its 36 tons, was winched out on heavy wooden rollers and 
eased onto a flatbed truck. The whole process took a week. 
    The third exhibit type for many minutes threw me. This is a 
vertical tubular spar about two meters tall with an incised and 
backlighted legend on it. There are lots of these all over the floor. 
The first clue I sussed out was that these were all outside the shadow 
of the Hayden Sphere, yet there was no actual 'thing' to look at near 
them. They looked like those undecipherable information pillars in 
shopping malls. 
    I happened to pass a couple of them with the open sky behind them, 
Extending out from the top, the spars being tubular, was a thick wire 
going straight up into the air. Following it upward, it ended in one 
of the hanging models of a celestial body! The legend was the object's 
name, like 'Venus' or 'spiral galaxy'. 
    One amusing incident happened to me. On the landing at the end of 
the timeline ramp there is a large, about one meter diameter, globe 
sitting on a low base. It sort of looked like the Moon with its relief 
surface. As I moved in closer to study it an usher skipped over to me. 
He was obviously proud to assist me. He caressed the top of the globe, 
like a father would the head of his little boy, and gushed, 'This is 
the Moon. OUR Moon!'. Yes, father. It in fact was a relief globe of 
the Moon. 
    On ny evening visits the Planetarium has a jazz band playing away 
in the Hall of the Universe. The music is nice and lively. It is, 
however, terribly loud. It distracts you from examining the exhibits 
in that hall. 
    I was at the Planetarium both by day and by evening. Amazingly, 
there is very little direct sunlight onto the main floor. With this 
period when the Sun is still south of the equator, this is not perhaps 
a fair statement. I did trace out the Sun's path in the sky for summer 
-- recalling that we got that legendary Stonehenge effect on Manhattan 
-- it seems that the floor is pretty well shaded all year round. Hence 
I thought there would be less interference from ambient illumination 
than I experienced on the ramps. 
    Sorry, folks. 
    The good news first. In evening (I was not yet there in full 
night) the place is wonderfully lighted. The illumination is thoroly 
civilized and mature and in full partnership with the outside sky. You 
really have to try hard to get an obnoxious light in your face. 
    Most of the captions and signs are plainly legible. There were an 
annoying number made with lousy combos of ink and paper color. But 
there were enough others of excellent legibility to cover for these. 
The video screens were easy to see, even the littler ones. Lighting of 
the floor, stairs, ramps, was even, with no confusing shadows or blind 
    The Hayden Sphere in evening from the bottom looks bluish-gray in 
the stead of the Cherenkov blue seen from outside in the street. And 
from the floor the mother really looks like it hovers, like some 
spaceship fixing to land on you. The tripod of struts is there, of 
course, painted a mild gray, similar to the tint of electric power 
poles to blend them into the landscape. They fade away among the 
exhibits, leaving the immense ball over your head. 
    In elevation, the Hayden Sphere nadir is about at the level of the 
park outside, or about 3 meters below 81st Street. It's about four 
meters above your head from the floor of the Hall of the Universe. The 
hanging models of the celestial bodies are all outside the equator of 
the ball so they are visible from the floor. They apparently have 
separate spotlights to illuminate them. Yes, no George Awad work here; 
the pieces are immature globes or crude shapes. 
    Now for the daytime, that's an other story. Despite the absence, 
by the shade of the Museum and the Hayden Sphere, of direct sunlight, 
the blue sky is incredibly brilliant. Maybe it's the super transparent 
glass, still sparkling clean from newness, that admits such copious 
light. In any case, just about every video screen is hopelessly washed 
out and tough to read. Many of the exhibit panels are a strain to read 
from the reflected skylight off of the shiny metal surfaces. 
    The sphere-in-a-cube is already a hotwire theme in architecture 
and is fast becoming an icon of the City, like the crown of the Empire 
State Building or the head of the Statue of Liberty. It is also 
already a rallying symbol for the darksky movement. 
    For here is a huge structure, communicating directly thru the 
glass walls with the heavens above, and as busy as the anchor store in 
a suburban shopping mall. Yet it lives in complete harmony and 
partnership with the stars! Preliminary tests from the adjacent patio, 
not open yet, prove that there is sensibly no loss of stars. Not a 
bulb is visible from outside the Planetarium and the totality of 
reflected light from the Hall of the Universe is hooded by the Hayden 
Sphere itself. 
    Construction is pretty much finished. Of the kinds of defect I 
found in my February 15th visit only a few remained. Most of the 
panels were aligned and tightened, most light leaks were sealed, most 
missing parts were replaced. There were still odds and ends of untidy 
work here and there. The one gross defect still outstanding is that 
stair joining the first floor, near the timeline ramp exit, to the 
lower level.  
    By the end of March of 2000 essentially all the construction 
defects were cleared up. From then on, what defects I found seemed to 
be from breakage or wear and tear. 
    There is one stair in particular that strikes me as still shaky. 
Literally shaky. This joins the end of the timeline ramp to the lower 
floor. From the timeline ramp you may turn into the Museum to visit 
the Hall of Planet Earth or continue downstairs to the lower floor. 
This stair is made of bolted sections in an open frame style. It is 
clanky and rattly under the feet. The feeling makes you grip the 
handrail. But this handrail is built in separated segments. As your 
hand slides across the gap between segments it's inevitably snagged. 
    So that's what's with the new Hayden Planetarium. Do come and see 
it. In spite of the glitches, it is a dropdead spectacular place, a 
veritable temple of the heavens. While here, see the rest of the 
Museum, too. Bring lots of film, tape, discs, chips for picture 
taking. You may use flash anywhere EXCEPT within the dome. Remember 
that. A wide angle lens is a real plus to take in the immensity of the 
Hayden Sphere. The bookstore is well stocked with good astronomy 
    The cafe in the basement of the Museum and eateries around the 
Museum campus are fairly priced. Central Park is just across the 
street. The subway and bus stops are right there at the corner. 
    Still at sea about your upcoming visit? Do this. Email me and I 
usually can arrange to show you around the place.