NZ astronomer to help pick Chinese planetarium

WILMA MCCORKINDALE
Last updated 18:05 13/03/2014

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A Dunedin astronomer will contribute to the development of a planetarium for a science institution in China.

Dr Ian Griffin, who recently took up the post of director of the Otago Museum, has been invited to sit on the panel to select the winning tender for the planetarium, which is being developed by the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum (SSTM).

The tender process would lead to a decision on the design plan, with further discussion on exhibition layout and interactive displays for the new planetarium, Griffin said.

Griffin, a former chief executive of the Auckland Observatory and Planetarium Trust, headed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Office of Public Outreach and was director of its Origins Education Forum based at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

While at Nasa, Griffin worked on the Hubble telescope programme.

Griffin said the Shanghai project was an ambitious one.

"At its most basic, a planetarium is a domed room where visitors can discover the night sky," he said.

"In the past few decades, planetarium design has experienced a period of renaissance and innovation.

"Boasting state of the art technology, modern planetaria use extraordinarily high-resolution video to broaden the minds of visitors to the possibilities of astronomy and other areas of science."

It would be constructed in Lingang New City, about 90 minutes from downtown Shanghai.

Thirteen companies had tendered to build the structure, seven of which were based in China, Griffin said.

"I am honoured to have been chosen to assist our colleagues at the SSTM with such an important decision, strengthening our already close ties with this excellent organisation," he said.

"I have long been a believer in the inherent power of planetaria to inspire a passion for the universe around us and for lifelong learning in visitors of all ages."

Griffin said the Shanghai experience could help in the possible development of a planetarium at the Otago Museum.

"It should provide invaluable information with possible application at the Otago Museum," he said.

Griffin will visit Shanghai from March 29 to April 7.


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- Fairfax Media

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