New planetarium program offers African perspective on the sky

We all live under the sky. A show opening at the Staerkel Planetarium shows it from an African perspective.

The shows draws on African creation legends of the Yoruba and Taureg, as well as written and architectural treasures of Egypt, with an introduction by planetarium Director David Leake.

The total show is about 45 minutes and takes viewers to the beginnings of time, as humanity comes of age in Africa.

The show is for grades 5 and up — and it's plenty entertaining for adults.

"Skywatchers of Africa" was originally produced by the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, but the Staerkel Planetarium takes a new digital, immersive approach to it.

Parkland's planetarium boasts a Digistar 4 digital full-dome projection system, using two JVC projectors to cover the dome.

Because the equipment is more advanced than the Adler project, the artwork had to be reimagined.

Waylena McCully, production designer for the Staerkel Planetarium, had the "time-consuming" task of going through each image, combining multiple slides to get one unified down picture.

She also added animation, such as a golden chain in a creation myth.

And she created original imagery for "Cosmic Colors: An Adventure Along the Spectrum," an earlier Great Lakes Planetarium Association project.

Thanks to McCully, the Africa show moves smoothly from one part of the continent to another, following the cycles of star-watching.

While Westerners see a Big Dipper in the sky, other cultures saw camels, for instance.

Using the stars for navigation, the Tuaregs cross national borders and the Sahara desert with great accuracy.

A mistake could be fatal, the show points out, if watering places are missed. The nomadic people breed cattle and trade in several north African countries.

"Skywatchers of Africa" pays special attention to the land of the pharaohs.

The Egyptians knew from the stars at dawn when the Nile would have a life-giving flood.

As the documentary points out, some pyramids were aligned toward the pole star. Others witnessed the rising of the midwinter sun.

If you go

What: "Skywatchers of Africa"

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Where: Parkland's Staerkel Planetarium, 2400 W. Bradley Ave., C

Tickets: $5 adults; $4 students, seniors and kids (all sold at the door)

More information: parkland.edu/planetarium

Topics (1):Technology

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