NEW YORK’S NEW HAYDEN PLANETARIUM ------------------------------- John Pazmino Amateur Astronomers Association 1998 November 1
[ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS PRESENTED AT THE 87TH ANNUAL MEETING OF THE AAVSO, HELD IN CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS, OCTOBER 29-NOVEMBER 1, 1998[
The Hayden Planetarium in New York City is under replacement by an entirely new facility, to open by New Year's Eve of 1999. Ground was broken for the new Hayden Planetarium in May of 1997, after demolition of the old edifice on the same site. In the early 1990’s the American Museum of Natural History, operator of the Planetarium, studied ways to update and improve the Planetarium, but in the end found it simplest and cheapest essentially to start all over again. This is America's first major planetarium in a full generation! Because of the layout of the Museum's campus on Manhattan's Upper West Side, the new structure had to occupy the exact same plot as the old. Yet, being that it is the equivalent of a nine-floor tower, it has many times the work, office, and exhibit space as the old. It is probably the largest planetarium by volume in the world. In addition to the Hayden Planetarium, the Museum is building several new halls along its north flank. These open in sequence during 1999 with the Planetarium being the last. In design, the Hayden Planetarium is a gigantic brushed steel sphere, 27m in diameter, 'floating' in a glass cube about 40m square. It is supported by a tripod of struts hidden by stonework on the lower floors. The upper two thirds of the ball — the Hayden Sphere — is the theatre of the stars, powered by a Zeiss Mark VIII projector. The lower third is a theater for demonstrating the Big Bang and evolution of the universe. The Planetarium communicates with the Museum along common walls, to a new bus garage adjacent to it, and the street by the traditional circular drive, completely rebuilt, that served the old building. Besides the physical apparatus, the Hayden Planetarium houses a new department of astrophysics for the Museum, now recruiting astronomers for its inaugural crew. This department includes a seamless melding of the news media and the universities and observatories. It also is assembling new programs of public astronomy with the Amateur Astronomers Association, restoring the unique system instituted in the 1920s of a 'civilian' corps of astronomers. The Planetarium restored the tradition that its director should be an active member of the Association and that instructor and auxiliary staff jobs be offered to the Association. The Planetarium project is on schedule and within time and budget. There was only one stoppage, to allow the construction workers to march in a sympathy demonstration for an unrelated labor dispute. The total cost of the project is not quite $150 million, raised by the City of New York, federal agencies, and major corporations. Where to be on New Year's Eve of 1999? New York!