Below is an overview of some of the things we get asked most often during calls and conversations before booking. We’re happy to talk with you personally to answer any questions you may have. Meanwhile, you can check out answers to our most common inquiries in the following fully-illustrated FAQs:
This whole planetarium thing sounds neat…What exactly IS it? The Ontario Planetarium (also run in the Kawarthas as The Peterborough Planetarium) is a 35-person-capacity science and space programming dome similar to traditional planetariums you might have seen at large-scale museums and science centres.
UNLIKE fixed planetariums, our facility comes to you. We do so for schools, Scouting, special interest groups and other educational entities, as well as additional venues such as outdoor centres, resorts, malls, and private functions.
(For more, check out our About Us section.)
Our dome measures 16×29 feet and 10 feet height at the top of the dome (but it’s only 10 feet for about 3×3′ in diameter at the top, as seen in this image at right.)
The dome has two tunnels (one for entrance and one for air from a fan that keeps the dome’s ceiling aloft.) There is no floor to the dome – it is basically a portable “classroom” that sits over your existing floor. (If desired, a layer of padding can be added on the floor.) Most school gyms and some libraries and large classrooms easily satisfy this criteria. The only other thing we need is a standard A/C electrical outlet.
Ideally, we also need to be able to have the room be dark, and there should be no outside interruptions that might lessen the experience of the shows (whatever you can hear outside the dome, you will hear just as loud inside the dome.)
Will you arrive in a big truck to set-up for presentations?
No. (We get asked this about every-other show.) While the dome can accommodate up to 30-35 people, it only requires a small/medium car to transport. Right now, our “fleet” of vehicles is comprised of a Honda Element and a Chevrolet Cobalt.
Aside from events where an organization has paid to bring us in for ticketed or free shows to the public, we do not have regular dates/hours for which individuals can attend shows.
The Ontario Planetarium is an exclusively mobile facility (we are not affiliated with any universities, clubs, or museums) that does not present shows at a fixed address.
I’d love to have you come by for a show for my class/Scouting group, etc…Can you come by and just do one show? Due to the time commitment required to set-up and disassemble the planetarium, we can only book by the day. We recommend that teachers or groups looking to bring us in for a single class, Scouting meeting, etc… identify other classes/groups/etc… that might be interested in participating in shows while we’re at your school/meeting venue to provide maximum value for you and your colleagues.
What information do you need from us when making a booking? In addition to a conversation about which show/content you’d like, we need to know how much time we have to deliver each show and how many participants there will be at each show.
What are the shows like? Similar to many of the world’s most advanced modern planetariums, our portable dome projects full-colour photorealistic motion-graphics of stars, constellations, planets, galaxies, and anything else in space or on Earth that our imaginations can conceive. When it’s daytime, you’ll see a virtual landscape from an area close to your location (the Peterborough Lift Locks, for example.) As we leave the Earth, you’ll experience the sights and thunderous sounds of a modern rocket launch to an orbiting space station. When we look at planets, we see details on their surfaces and their moons swinging around in their orbits. Want to see the Milky Way? We’ll view it in all its glory, then accelerate to millions of times the speed of light to fly through it in 3D! (More details on shows here)
Can we take pictures inside the dome? Yes! We ask that those wishing to take photos in the dome do so after the end of the show, when doing so will not interrupt the experience for others.
To get a picture of stars and planets inside the planetarium (like the ones you see on this page) you will need to have the shutter speed and ISO of your camera set to their maximum. If you have control over your camera’s depth-of-field, it should be set the lowest-possible ‘f’ number (i.e. f3.5, etc…) Flashes must be turned off or blocked (pictures with flashes won’t turn out anyway.) You will also need to ‘steady’ your camera against something (the floor, a phone/watch, etc…) to act as a tripod for the long exposure.
How long is each show? While we can custom-tailor shows to your class/period schedules or event, we typically offer presentations of 20, 30, 45, or 60-minutes. When deciding which length (or combination of lengths) is right for you, be sure to keep in mind entrance and exit times, which generally total about 10-15 minutes, including times for participants to gather, take their shoes off (to protect the entrance and sides of the dome), receive a short emergency procedure briefing, enter the dome and exit.
What educational curriculum content do you cover? We explore many of the topics in the Grade 1 and Grade 6 space units in Ontario Elementary Earth Science curriculum, as well as many Ontario secondary school curriculum Earth Science, space science, aerospace, cosmology and astronomy topics. We also cover an extensive amount of content related to science, astronomy, and space badge-work at all levels of Scouting . (More info on our Curriculum page)
Do you have any testimonials from other schools? Yes indeed! You can check out our Testimonials page to see what other teachers (and students) think of our shows!
What about grades that aren’t doing space units? When we’re brought in as a special experience for classes doing space units or about to do space units, we invariably end up getting asked to do star shows for other classes as well, which we’re over-the-Moon to do. These not only serve as exciting “edutaining” treats for other classes, but also as multi-discipline tie-ins with units/classes/courses on history, technology, manufacturing, art, drama, English, and creative writing, not to mention countless sciences, from chemistry and physics, to biology and engineering/materials science.
What else do you cover that applies to other classes/units? In addition to space topics and the related spin-offs above, we also offer extensive Earth Science “Google-Earth”-style interactive Earth-observation visualizations of terrestrial sea levels and temperatures, ozone levels, atmospheric CO2, fault lines, and more. We also have shows that look at constellation lore from an artistic and historical perspective, including extensive content on First Nations and Inuit star knowledge and constellations of the ancient Egyptians, Mayans, Norse, and more. PLUS, we also offer a variety of popular interactive science presentations that we can deliver in-class of on the dome.
Literacy is a major priority for our school / board…Do you offer any content related to this? Yes! Upon request, co-presenter Peter McMahon now offers a 15 minute add-on inside the dome that focuses on careers in writing and literature, including examples from his career as a professional science/space journalist and author, as well as sneak peeks at current works-in progress, such as magazine articles about to hit news stands, and a new kids book due out in 2015. This brief add-on can also be delivered as a more in-depth presentation in-class instead of or in-addition-to planetarium shows.
What accreditation/clearances do your presenters have? Peter and Rick have many decades of youth science outreach/presenting experience under their collective belts: In addition to running The Peterborough Planetarium, Peter is a working science/space journalist and children’s author. Rick is an accomplished astrophotographer, former astronomy club president, and recently-retired conservation officer with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Both Rick and Peter are fully bonded and have current clear criminal-reference-checks (including clear Vulnerable Sector Checks) available for review upon request. In early 2014, we also completed Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) training. (You can read more about Peter and Rick here)
How much does a visit cost? We only book full days and strongly recommend organizing a booking around both classes doing Space/Earth Science units and other grades/classes that you feel would benefit from a more general (or specific to a particular subject) version of our standard shows. Depending on how many participants there are in each class and how many classes we can accommodate in a day, per-person costs can be as low as $2.60. Teachers, principals, Scouting leaders, event / programming managers, and others interested in booking can contact the planetarium to discuss pricing and date availability by phone or email: (905) 885-9471 or email@example.com
It all sounds good but we don’t have the budget for a full day…Do we have any other options? Many schools looking to fund a visit from our planetarium have had success with staff (principals most often) approaching their school council to fund a day of in-school planetarium presentations. Other options or groups and schools include approaching local service groups such as Lion’s, Rotary, Knights of Columbus, your local Royal Canadian Legion, or others. If you are interested in pursuing this yourself, we would be happy to share with you case-studies where this has been done by some of our school groups in the past. Finally, we will also accept bookings from two groups/schools in close proximity to each other who would like to convene at one of their two locations and “share” us for a day, splitting the costs of bringing us in 50/50.
OK I’m sold! How do I proceed with a booking? Once you know you’d like to bring us in for a visit, give us a call or email. We’ll do our best to book your first date[s] choice and send you a confirmation email. A $100 deposit (refundable up to 30 days before your presentation date) will be invoiced to you and is due immediately to complete the booking process. If you’ve got any additional questions/requests RE content and scheduling, we’re only too happy to chat over the phone or email.
What do we need to know before our planetarium visit? We typically settle on content and scheduling before or upon booking (any additional requests on this note can be accommodated up to two weeks before your presentation date.)
Before or upon receipt of your booking deposit, we will provide you with a safety waiver that must be signed and returned (by mail, digitally, or on your presentation day) as well as a document that details what to expect and how to prepare your group[s] for their cosmic experience.
You can view the school visit version of that document here. We will confirm our arrival with you via phone or email the day before presentation day (the week-day before, in the case of Monday or weekend presentations.)
For cancellations up to a month in advance, all but the $100 deposit is refundable.
For cancellations with less than a month’s notice, 50% of the total is refundable.
For cancellations with less than a week’s notice, the entire balance is due (i.e. 0% of the total is refundable.)
Again, if you have any additional questions/requests or pre-booking inquiries, we’re happy to chat over the phone or email: firstname.lastname@example.org / (905) 885-9471