A Scholastic Journey to the Cosmos: Cosmic Wonder at the Adler Planetarium

by Joseph Tith, Round Lake High School, Class of 2016

Round Lake Scholars outside of the Adler Planetarium
Did you know that if Earth lacked an atmosphere, your typical Chicago summer day would be 20° F?  Round Lake Schuler Scholars discovered the relevance of the atmosphere and satisfied their astral curiosity at the Adler Planetarium on a recent Saturday afternoon exposure, along with Schuler Scholar Coaches Ellen Anderson-benge, Celina Garza, and Altagracia Montilla.  After surviving hordes of traffic that made a 45 minute trip a two hour journey, sophomore Scholars finally reached their destination – a gateway to outer space.  

Scholars first visited the Clark Family Gallery – a collection of projectors and LEDs that dazzled everyone.  The projectors created images that were sensitive to a person’s shadow and moved accordingly.  Low meandering arches and mysterious blue lights defined the peculiar look of the room.  Videos on space exploration and philosophical slides added intellectualism to this purely playful exhibit. The words of the reformer Samuel Smiles, “He who never made a mistake never made a discovery,” left a lasting impression on the Scholars that there is more to science than just getting the right answer.

In “Our Solar System,” Scholars briefly learned information on each planet in our solar system which, strangely enough, included Pluto.   Some Scholars took interest in landers and rovers, which led them to a rather cramped room.  Inside it contained a single joystick to control the camera of a simulated lander, which recreated the difficulty in attempting to steer one.  Scholars learned how landers were designed to be stationary and help transport rovers.  Rovers are the grunts of operations, going out into the vast unknowns to collect rock samples and perform tests.

In the main course, “Cosmic Wonder,” Scholars entered a massive 70x35 feet dome with several projectors in the back.  At the control panel, I was able to speak with Derrick – the coordinator of the show.  He explained how each projector, 15 in total, was military grade and cost a whopping $200,000.  They’re programmed to overlap so that the resulting image doesn’t seem choppy or torn, and thus they create a very realistic projection.  Underneath the floor 45 servers are hooked up to two computers in the control panel of the show.   In addition, exclusive software was designed just for the show.  Overall, the total cost for the dome adds up to a staggering $14,000,000 – talk about out of this world!

Afterwards, Scholars split into groups to see “The Universe: A Walk Through Space and Time.”  More mystifying graphics covered the walls as well as panels, which provided much more information on the stars.  For example, it would take 12 feet of sand covering Illinois to represent all the stars in space.  Before my group left, we checked out the “Space Visualization Lab” – the epitome of tech heaven.  The main attraction was the Samsung interface – which gave Scholars a hands-on experience of the solar system.

At the end of the day, Scholars came home with new knowledge and evermore curious minds.  Like a super massive black hole, Scholars’ minds continually consume information on the world around them.  And much like the expanses of the cosmos, Scholars reaffirm their unlimited potential to aspire beyond their expectations.


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