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Montreal's new $48-million planetarium

Canadian astronaut Julie Payette admits she was a little skeptical when she got a peek at Montreal's new $48-million planetarium on Friday.

Payette said the scientist in her is used to the normal planetarium where discussions focus on stars and black holes.

She wasn't too sure about the new facility's theatre with its light-and-sound show.

"I was a little skeptical at first of the idea that we'd be into imaginative and creative stuff that is not necessarily rooted in pure science," the 49-year-old engineer told The Canadian Press.

"But I think it will attract people who would not necessarily come to a planetarium in the first place."

The Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, which officially opens its doors to the public on Saturday, is unique because it contains two very different theatres, which are housed under two enormous shiny cones.

The Milky Way Theatre, which seats about 200, is the traditional astronomical facility where visitors study and learn about the starry sky.

It's described as state-of-the art, with what astronomers say is the most authentic possible representation of the night sky.

There are views of celestial bodies as seen by the naked eye, but visitors will see even more if they bring along a pair of binoculars.

In the second hall, dubbed the Chaos Theatre, visitors sit back on bean bags and are taken on a 20-minute multimedia odyssey through the universe.

The extraterrestrial voyage, called Continuum, begins quietly on the ground as visitors gaze at the stars through the shadow of trees.

They are then propelled out into space and travel to far-off planets and galaxies, visit the Sun and even watch huge space rocks slam into each other.

The planetarium also features a permanent interactive exhibition with projections and multimedia games which ponder the question of whether life exists beyond Earth.

The Canadian Press


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