Hi-tech planetarium for Thessaloniki to open in mid-2004

THESSALONIKI – As of mid-2004, those dreaming of a trip into space or to the depths of the ocean will be able to travel through the galaxies and dive to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean in absolute safety. Space and submarine travel will be available at an ultramodern planetarium and with a state-of-the-art virtual reality simulator that will begin operating at a site in Thermi, Thessaloniki, in the first half of next year at the Science Center and Technology Museum, the only one of its kind in Greece and the Balkans. The center, which has grown out of the Technology Museum of Thessaloniki, was designed with developments abroad in mind, its general secretary, Yiannis Papaefstathiou, told Kathimerini, and with the cooperation of Greek and foreign experts. The aim is to highlight scientific and technological traditions and to give everyone access to and an understanding of science and technology. The planetarium will consist of a 25-meter-wide dome, an 18-meter hemispherical interior screen, with 180 reclining seats for viewing heavenly bodies with the help of digital technology. Starry skies, cloud formations, eclipses of the sun and moon and other phenomena related to astrophysics will be screened with the aid of laser beams, guiding astronomy buffs into realms unknown to ordinary people. The planetarium is impressive, but the simulator will take visitors to the furthest reaches of the universe. In specially designed seats, the 180 members of the audience will feel part of the dynamic simulation of various phenomena. As the spaceship takes off from Cape Canaveral, the spectators will feel as if they really are on board, experiencing the atmosphere inside the spaceship. As the ship emerges from the atmosphere, the earth is visible far below, with a glimpse of the Great Wall of China, the only man-made structure visible from space. After a short stop on the moon, the ship makes a few orbits around Mars before continuing on its magical ride through the solar system. It will be just as simple to dive down into the depths of the ocean, or fly over the Egypt of antiquity and see the pyramids, the lighthouse of Alexandria, and the beauties of the Nile. «There are dozens of film titles, with journeys into space, to the bottom of the ocean, into the jungle and so on,» says Papaefstathiou. The Technology Museum has more things to offer. A collection of 100 reconstructions of ancient Greek machines and inventions will be on display to highlight the treasury of technological knowledge that has been amassed through the ages in Greece, showing its development from ancient Greece to the modern information age. They include the Antikythera Mechanism, Archimedes’ Screw, Hero’s Odometer and the Byzantine timepiece and calender. Also at the center are a wide-screen cinema, a techno-park, a hall for experiments and demonstrations, technical laboratories, and other venues.