Tonight’s Sky (Mid-America)
Mid-America Science Museum
Mid-America Science Museum created Tonight’s Sky, a new immersive viewer experience allowing participants to explore the sky currently above them in a deep and meaningful way. The show provides a 180-degree tour of the night sky, highlighting constellations, galaxies and nebulas that can be viewed with binocular and low power, amateur telescopes. The theory is to provide context, meaning and historical significance to the skies currently above the viewer in a manner than inspires while removing the intimidation factor inherent in such a vast area of study. The program was developed to present on a 180-degree digital dome theater system but has been adapted to use on a flat screen and outdoors as well.
To engage viewers in their own personal exploration of their night sky.
To add new content to the regular schedule of educational experiences shown in Digital Domes.
To impact the broadest audience possible by making the new education experience available to a wide variety of other educational institutions in a variety of formats.
This program specifically targets local students, families, and general visitors. Student visitors to the museum are statistically impoverished, under-served and under-performing. A 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress report states that 39% of Arkansas' 8th graders scored below basic in science. The Mid-America Science Museum also seeks to impact the over 19% of the population of Arkansas that lives below the poverty line by bringing high-quality educational programming to the region. Mid-America Science Museum hopes to broaden the impact of the program by making it available to other education institutions in rural and statistically impoverished areas.
Recommendations for future implementations
Tonight's Sky is most impactful for viewers when the content is kept current in relation to the sky above the viewer. This requires regular tweaking of the images, locations on the screen and the text. The series of 6 different shows allows for efficient viewing throughout the calendar year. However, for events, workshops and more precise showings, regular modifications should be made. Moreover, the language used by Mid-America Science Museum's Dome is Python and only a few staff members have working knowledge of this language. Having knowledgeable staff who can make code, script and content changes quickly and efficiently is critical to keeping the program relevant and true to the skies overhead.