Thursday, 25 October 2012

Observing Carter

The other day I went to the Carter Observatory... and have to say I was kinda disappointed. But rather than just say that, let's break down what I wasn't impressed by... and what I would like to see.

First off, let's acknowledge that there were school trips there, and there was a lot of focus on them. And that they don't have a truck of money, nor miles of space to install things. Still... The cost of $18.50 is rather over the top. It's $10 for the exhibition area, and $8.50 for the show, but that's still a lot. (And throw in $6 for the Cable Car... sure was cheaper when I was a student.)

The film they showed was what Astronauts go through to become astronauts. Interesting (if not entirely new information for me), aimed more at the kids. (Is there another movie they show to non-schools?) And yet, not riveting. Afterwards we did a wee tour of the sky and some of the planets. I would have liked more of that... and more on that below. It did last nearly an hour, so pitched well there.

The exhibition itself reminded me a lot of Te Papa's Discover Space... but with far less things to look at. Wall displays of information, and a few videos to watch... there is the telescope area (not that you could look through it), and a kids room and mini-theatre... and then the shop is rather depressing...

So what would I have liked? Given the astronaut movie, perhaps an interactive display of "Here's a pack that weighs the same as what the astronauts carry, can you lift it?" or a space helmet to try on... [There is totally room for someone to set up an experience of wearing a full on suit underwater and doing stuff.]

Also, with the Mars Curiosity rover, there could be far more about Mars. A Mars room to let us walk around on the "surface"? Drive a rover? Ooh, here's what a rock weighs on Earth, here's the same rock on Mars, here's the rock on the Moon...

But what I really want to see, and the raison d'etre of the observatory, is the night sky. An interactive display that let's us browse around the sky, pointing at things. A mini-version of what we get in the show room. And a telescope to look through, we have the technology to show anything through it, so be a good way for people to get used to what they would see. Would this really be so hard to do?

So, yeah... not sure I'd head back any time soon. But they are in trouble, and having been, can't say I'm shocked.


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