The Iziko Museums of Cape Town (Iziko is isiXhosa for “hearth”) is an amalgamation of 12 national museums located near the Cape Town city centre. The Natural History sphere consists of the venerable Iziko South African Museum (founded in 1825) and, most pertinent to this particular blog post, the Iziko Planetarium, a project technically launched in the late 1950s, but which only became relevant to the public after the 1987 installation of the Planetarium’s star machine.
Built as an extension to the aforementioned Iziko South African Museum, the Planetarium is a familiar fixture for any of Cape Town’s former schoolkids – I’m not aware of any scholar that didn’t experience an school outing to the planetarium at least once during their school career!
Of course, as it inevitable does, technical equipment becomes outdated, and as such, after investments totaling R28,5 million were poured into the upgrade project, May 2017 saw the reopening of the new Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome (the planetarium’s new, official moniker), now extensively updated and most important of all, featuring cutting edge fulldome digital technology.
The result is beyond spectacular. The new Planetarium is now what is known as a “world-class digital fulldome theatre”, allowing for multimedia image projection and data visualisation on a scale not previously seen in Africa.
Apart from now being able to present interactive teaching and visual learning across multiple disciplines (essentially, there is now no reason that the Planetarium is solely focused on the field of astronomy), the biggest takeaway for this state of art digital dome is the fact that the Planetarium is now also very much an scientific instrument – capable of crunching and displaying complex and important data visualizations, exactly like those produced by the exciting SKA (Square Kilometre Array) project for example!
That said, I have a 3 year old and 6 year old daughter – meaning that our first experience of this glorious new piece of technology was a viewing of Tycho to the Moon – a supposedly educational, Australian produced 21 minute long feature about a dog and his kids that travel to the moon.
Spoiler, while the girls did enjoy the experience as a whole, Tycho to the Moon itself isn’t very good and kids seem to get bored of it VERY quickly.
The adverts for the other science show offerings, not to mention the star/universe gazing segment tacked on by our operator at the end of the show, were on the other hand ENTHRALLING – so definitely a return trip to the Planetarium for both Chantelle and myself is now VERY much in order!
Given the fact that the planetarium stands as part of the museum, with the Company’s Garden right on its doorstep, there is no way that this shouldn’t be on your list of things to do with kids in Cape Town.