Dark Universe/aurōrae take you into the Milky Way and the northern lights
Along with Dark Universe comes aurōrae, the second part of a double feature program the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium is showing. Visitors get to experience outer space and the solar system before gazing at the aurora borealis, better known as the northern lights.
Dark Universe was presented at the Chaos Theatre of the planetarium where bean bag chairs covered the floor so as to get a perfect view of the show being projected on the domed ceiling. Astrophysicist and host of the remake Cosmos series Neil deGrasse Tyson narrated Dark Universe, which might open your eyes to the vastness of the universe and our own Milky Way galaxy. The Milky Way is but one in our entire solar system that has thousands of other galaxies within it. To consider the millions of other solar systems that exist around us is to realize just how vast the universe is and how small and insignificant we are in comparison. It’s weirdly beautiful. The visuals alone are gorgeous and you are given a spectacular look into our galaxy.
In the Milky Way Theatre where aurōrae took place, the seating was arranged in a round circle surrounding a large projector. The domed ceiling was covered in stars soon to present the aurōrae show. The host started by introducing the ideal stargazing time in Montreal—around 5:30 a.m.—which is the best time to see Mars, Venus and Jupiter along with the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. She also pointed out the North Star, Polaris, which is the guiding path of aurora borealis.
The show began with an explanation on the technical details of how aurora lights can occur. Although one would assume that the northern lights could only be seen in specific areas of the world—namely in the North, perhaps in Alaska—they can be seen in Quebec and even all the way to the tropics. You may want to visit the North and see it all with your own eyes someday, but aurōrae will give you a fantastic closer look at the lights, the movement patterns and the colours. The host mentioned a legend where the aurora borealis were actually celestial beings or gods playing ball with the head of a human. When humans come across the lights they are to bow their head so as not to catch the attention of the gods. The fluid and rhythmic motion of the lights make it easy to see why one would think it was figures playing ball.
The colours of the aurora are dependent on the sun’s solar flares hitting the Earth’s magnetic shields and coming into contact with the different gas particles in our atmosphere, as the host explained. The beauty of the northern lights was splendidly captured by aurōrae. Be sure to check it out, there are other shows to be seen as well as a fun interactive exhibit.
The double feature Dark Universe/aurōrae is on until Sept. 2016. Tickets cost $8 on Thursday evenings.