The Stars are Big and Bright in NYC

As the holiday season rolls around we often tend to reminisce about holidays past. Recently I got to thinking about our trip to New York City in December of 2011.

It had always been one of my wife's dreams to visit New York City during Christmas.  I think it is the subtle impact of movies and shows using NYC as a location and destination for Christmas that have had the biggest effect.  Places like Rockefeller Center and Macy's were at the top of our list to visit for this trip.  One place I wanted to visit was the American Museum of Natural History and the Rose Center for Earth and Space. My wife has always liked museums and both of us couldn't remember the last time we visited a planetarium so it was added to our list. 


I went on-line and bought tickets and then we jumped into a yellow cab and made our way to the museum.  The museum is located next Central Park and is, of course, one of the nicer areas of NYC.  We entered through the 81st street entrance which is under the planetarium.  This is the iconic structure you see in the photo. The planetarium is a large ball suspended inside a glass cube.  The upper 2/3rds part of the sphere houses the planetarium. Situated below the sphere is a movie chronicling the big bang.  You stand around a big well and the movie is projected onto the bottom of it.  It helps to create the affect that you are overseeing creation.  Once you leave the movie you follow a spiral travel chronicling galactic time.  Various references are presented along the travel to help visitors get a perspective on the vast time depicted. 

Underneath the sphere there are several astronomy related displays.  Near the center is the 14-ton Willamette meteorite, found in an Oregon forest in 1902, has a nearly perfect nose cone shape, (pictured below).  Arriving at this museum in 1906, Willamette is now displayed in the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Over hundreds of years, rainwater mixed with sulfur deposits in the meteorite to form acid, which burned round cavities into its surface.


A must visit for any space enthusiast is the Arthur Ross hall of meteorites.  The diversity of meteorites is astounding.  Once could spend almost a day just exploring this room.  In the center is a fragment of the huge Cape York meteorite called Ahnighito.  It is the biggest piece of Cape York ever discovered.  This fragment is 34-ton and the posts used to support it extend down through the basement all the way into the bedrock! 


After visiting various sections of the museum we finally made our way to the planetarium entrance.  I must say the when you enter, the inside of the dome it is very impressive.  It is a fairly large space and as they say, there is not a bad seat in the house.  The lights go down and the show starts.  It is hard to describe in words.  They use a state of the art projection system so everything is rendered beautifully.  The animation of traveling through the star formation region of the Great Orion nebula takes on an almost 3D like quality, without glasses.  It was wonderful to see the Milky Way projected across the dome from one side to the other. sight, sadly, most New Yorkers don't see without a major blackout.

So the next time you are in New York be sure to add the American Museum of Natural History and the Rose Center for Earth and Space to your itinerary.  A world class museum and a universe of stars in one place is hard to pass up.