As long as the heavens are lit, we’ll yearn to view them

[b]Minsk planetarium has been viewing the stars for 45 years[/b] It’s said that you can see the stars even during daytime if you sit at the bottom of a well! However, it’s more comfortable — and reliable — to visit a planetarium. You can admire the celestial sphere regardless of the weather, observing the stars, planets and satellites. Moreover, solar and lunar eclipses can be seen, as well as panoramas of the Moon, Mars and Venus…Since ancient times, the heavens have been attracting our attention. We’ve watched and painted the stars, creating stories about them. Telescopes have enabled us to make so many wonderful discoveries — as has the optical-mechanical ‘Planetarium’ device, which creates the illusion of cosmic spheres and heavenly phenomenon. There are about four thousand planetariums worldwide, with the first built in Munich in 1925. In the USSR, the first planetariums appeared in 1929 — initially in Moscow and later in other cities.
Minsk planetarium has been viewing the stars for 45 years

It’s said that you can see the stars even during daytime if you sit at the bottom of a well! However, it’s more comfortable — and reliable — to visit a planetarium. You can admire the celestial sphere regardless of the weather, observing the stars, planets and satellites. Moreover, solar and lunar eclipses can be seen, as well as panoramas of the Moon,
Mars and Venus…
Since ancient times, the heavens have been attracting our attention. We’ve watched and painted the stars, creating stories about them. Telescopes have enabled us to make so many wonderful discoveries — as has the optical-mechanical ‘Planetarium’ device, which creates the illusion of cosmic spheres and heavenly phenomenon. There are about four thousand planetariums worldwide, with the first built in Munich in 1925. In the USSR, the first planetariums appeared in 1929 — initially in Moscow and later in other cities.
In Belarus, planetariums were operational in Gomel, Vitebsk and Lida, based inside re-equipped churches or other buildings with a dome. Minsk’s
planetarium was constructed from scratch in 1965, in the centre of the capital, designed by Belarusian architect Natalia Afanasieva. It is situated on one of the highest sites in Gorky Park, opposite a monument to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. It is the country’s only public observatory, boasting a telescope able to show the Sun’s spots, lunar craters and travelling comets. “Sadly, the observatory hasn’t been open for several years,” says Alexander Mikulich, the Head of Minsk’s planetarium. “However, in 2009 (proclaimed the Year of Astronomy by the UN General Assembly), restoration began. The telescope has been repaired, as has the electrical wiring and hydraulics. We have more work to do but we hope that the observatory will soon open its doors, revealing our under-explored Universe.”
The planetarium has been operational for 45 years — without break. Its Carl Zeiss Jena equipment — installed on its opening day — has never failed. Staff bestow their loving care, ensuring that the optical-mechanical projector shows the location of stars each season. It even produces some special effects. You can sit in a cosy armchair to view comets, the Northern Lights, meteor showers and the rising of the Sun in just a few minutes. Staff could be envied, being able to see the sun rising and setting several times a day. It’s rather like the world of Antoine de Saint-Exupйry’s fairytale; his Little Prince lived on a small planet, so was able to admire the setting of the Sun repeatedly by moving his chair a few metres…
The planetarium organises a show almost every hour. Apart from demonstrations of the stars, it offers cartoons such as The Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet on Mars, reviews of the latest astronomical news and lectures on astronomy, cosmonautics, geophysics and nature conservation. The planetarium also hosts various cosmic themed shows (having wonderful acoustics) and exhibitions. Its recent Astral Pictorial Art presented the Cosmos via the prism of Victor Vasyukevich’s artistic intuition. On International Astronomy Day, the planetarium joins forces with a club of astronomy lovers to organise an outdoor party in Gorky Park. Everyone then has access to the telescope, able to watch the stars and learn about the Universe from an exhibition of astronomy-themed photos. On Astronomy Day, Baikonur veterans attend, while competitions are held for children, alongside public lectures. Plans for July 29th, when the planetarium is to celebrate its 45th birthday, remain secret.
An amateur club for young astronomers has been operational at the planetarium. Since 2008, the club of astronomy lovers — Ash-nyu — has been opened, uniting several dozen members who often go to the countryside with their telescopes. The lack of city lights gives better viewing opportunities and, in spring, they attend the Messier Marathon — organised all over the globe. “Of course, we don’t run with telescopes,” smiles Mr. Mikulich. “The goal of the event is to observe as many objects sited by 18th century French astronomer Charles Messier as possible in a single night. It’s extremely difficult to do, as his catalogue unites 110 different galaxies, starry hosts and nebulae.”
The BELASTRO.NET website has been operational in Belarus for several years already, allowing club members and astronomy lovers countrywide to communicate. “Astronomy lovers are a single friendly family. We help each other and offer advice, sharing experience. We often visit private observatories set up by amateur astronomers in Belarus — these are run by Sergey Shurpakov (from Orsha), Sergey Ivan (from Molodechno) and Vitaly Nevsky (from Vitebsk),” explains Mr. Mikulich.
Minsk’s planetarium is a member of the International Planetarium Society, the Eurasian Astronomical Society and the Russian Planetariums Association. It also co-operates with CIS planetariums and participates in international events, such as that run by the School of Lecturers in Moscow.
The planetarium is always full of visitors — schoolchildren and their teachers, tourist groups from Belarus and abroad, parents and their children, students and young people. As long as the stars are lit above us, we’ll yearn to view them.

By Lyudmila Minkevich
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