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Moscow Planetarium opening after 17 years of reconstruction

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The Moscow Planetarium, one of the best known never ending construction projects in the city, is opening on June 12 after 17 years of reconstruction.

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The official opening ceremony was yesterday, while  public access will start today, June 13. Visitors will pay from 150 rubles to 500 rubles depending on the program they choose (the current exchange rate is 27.79 rubles to the dollar). The Planetarium will be open daily, from 10:00 a.m. through 21:00 p.m.

The Planetarium has survived not only the long period of reconstructions but also the change of administration. The building was designed by architects Mikhail Borsch and Mikhail Sinyavsky and opened in 1929 as a center for popularization of natural sciences. The principal objective of the planetarium was to read public lectures and implement scientific and artistic programs in astronomy and space exploration and to form scientific mentality on the basis of generalized achievements of the modern natural science.

Despite famine and general confusion of the 1920s, the planetarium started to fulfill its mission. In the course of the prewar period an experiment was conducted in the planetarium in respect to establishment of a star theater. There played actors from different theaters of Moscow. Within the period from 1937 to 1940 the stage of the Planetarium’s star theater witnessed three pieces performed: Galileo, Geordano Bruno and Kopernik .

Within the whole prewar period the planetarium delivered more than 18, 500 lectures to about 8 million people.

On June 22, 1941, the summer solstice day, the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 began. Apart from reading lectures to the general public, the planetarium offered specialized lectures to reconnaissance and air force servicemen.

All through the WW2 years, , the planetarium was closed only once for the period of two months. In the first days of the war many planetarium employees were drafted and sent to the front. Almost all of them perished in battlefields.

In the postwar period the Planetarium was profoundly occupied with improvement of the lectures’ quality and extension of their themes. One of the most significant measures taken by the planetarium was the construction of the astronomic ground, which opened on September 7, 1947. The facility presented original visual aids and measuring instruments.

In 1977 the old planetarium apparatus was replaced with a new one manufactured by Karl Zeiss Jena Company especially for Moscow.

The Planetarium kept permanent relations with foreign organizations. In September 1987 it hosted the International Congress of Planetariums’ Directors in Moscow, where representatives of 30 countries of the world were present.

In 1990 the planetarium opened a public observatory with the biggest telescope in Moscow.

Upon the collapse of the USSR, the All – Union Society for Spreading Social and Political Knowledge, one of the richest public organizations in the former Soviet Union, found itself unable to finance numerous bodies, including the Moscow Planetarium. The attempts of many years to obtain the budget financing or even reduced rates of communal or tax payments were fruitless.

In the beginning of 1994 the Planetarium faced the necessity of the overhaul and modernization. The project cost was estimated at $9.6 million. Moscow Planetarium Ltd was established for drawing investments for the cultural and educational center.

The planetarium was closed down for July 14, 1994.

The reconstruction was paused many times due to the lack of funding. Apart from repairs of the facade and interior, the planetarium foundation by hoisted by six meters.

In late March 2008 former director general Igor Mikitasov said that the planetarium was seized by raiders and described the replacement of the planetarium administration by the city property department as "a campaign aimed at the deliberate bankruptcy." The Moscow Arbitration Court announced the planetarium bankrupt on May 13. The overall credit indebtedness of the planetarium amounted to 1.7 billion rubles. A financial analysis of company affairs showed that the Moscow Planetarium was insolvent. After that the planetarium was sold to Moscow authorities for 1.87 billion rubles.

About the Moscow Planetarium

The new Planetarium is a modern facility. Apart from the Grand Star Hall, it has the Small Star Hall, the Sky Park astronomy center, two observatories, the Lunarium interactive museum, the Urania museum and a 4-D movie theater.

The Grand Star Hall operates the Universarium M9 optic starry sky projector – one of the most advanced projectors capable of displaying the starry skies above different cities around the world. It is made up of 32 projectors showing 9, 100 scintillating stars. Universarium M9 can precisely depict what the starry sky looked like and what astronomical phenomena happened in the period of 10, 000 years.

Apart from Universarium, there is a digital projector modeling head-spinning voyages in the universe on the Europe’s largest dome screen with the diameter of 25 meters and the size of 1, 000 square meters.

There is an astronomy center on the roof with two observatories, the biggest vertical solar clock in Europe, a Foucault pendulum, giant globes and mockups of the Stonehenge and the Cheops Pyramid. Later on, the planetarium will open a scientific and recreation center with a library and the largest Russian meteorite museum.

The Urania museum named after the muse of astronomy is a two-level attraction telling visitors about the history of the Moscow Planetarium and displaying a vast collection of meteorites, large relief globes of the Earth, the Moon, Mars and Venus and a vast mockup of the solar system with planet semi-spheres and the shining Sun.

The Lunarium museum is an interactive spot providing information and showing the effects of laws of physics, astronomy, Earth science and space research.

In short, the Moscow Planetarium is a multi-role center combining science, education and family attraction for various age groups. Its size grew from 3, 000 to 17, 000 kilometers after the reconstruction. The modernized Planetarium may annually have up to 1.5 million visitors as compared with one million in the previous days.

Image: Moscow Planetarium. Photo: RIA Novosti

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