Japanese technology helps stars shine brighter at Manila Planetarium


At a quaint property in the heart of Manila is a state-owned planetarium that is attracting increasing numbers of visitors with more spectacular shows made possible by newly acquired spotlights from Japan.

Since February, thousands of people have flocked to the National Planetarium on Padre Burgos Avenue to see the exhibits and performances, which run from mid-morning to late afternoon. On busy days, the crowd reaches over 1,000 people.

Bret Guiterrez, 22, after watching one of the 45-minute shows, said it reminded him of life in the provinces, where many of his nights were spent gazing at the stars.

“The show was good,” he said of his first visit to the planetarium.

“The shows have improved a lot since my last visit,” said Sarah Plofino, 21, wistfully recalling her visits to the planetarium as a child. “The presentations also seem much more detailed.

“It was pretty high-tech and they have really good equipment,” said Alan Robles, who attended a daytime show with his wife, Raissa, and their son.

They were among the 200 or so people who filled the auditorium to the brim for this screening.

Five shows take place every day from Tuesday to Saturday, and two are offered every Sunday.

The heart and soul of the planetarium is the GM Star Projector, a dumbbell-shaped mechanical device measuring over 3 meters in length, an analog marvel acquired in the 1970s. It is controlled remotely by two technicians via a console a few meters away.

Three new state-of-the-art digital projectors were acquired this year and are used with the old projector.

Thanks to this “hybrid” system, the planetarium is able to produce both fascinating and educational shows, presenting realistic and picturesque views of the night sky.

“The reason it’s called a hybrid (projection system) is because we merged them,” said Maria Belen Pabunan, who heads planetarium operations, of the simultaneous use of analog and digital technologies.

The old and new projectors were supplied by the Japanese company Goto Inc., which won the contract for 30 million pesos (over 66 million yen) in a public tender for the new equipment. .

“They just happen to have won (again) and that was good because the old spotlights were coming from them too. So syncing was easy because they already knew the details – what parts to replace, how to sync with the new ones, ”Pabunan said.

All three new projectors produce sharper 2K images. Used in tandem with the old projector and special lenses, they allow shows to be presented in full domes, making the experience more immersive and breathtaking.

Pabunan, who has worked at the planetarium for nearly three decades, said he was able to attract more people with the visually enhanced shows.

“With the new (projection) system, shows have become more exciting and people want to watch more because the visuals are better,” she explained.

With the new projectors, Pabunan said they can then focus on upgrading the planetarium’s other facilities, especially its exhibits, a company she admitted could take some time given budget limitations.

“Before we can ask for a budget, we have to make proposals. So maybe it will be years before we get big funding again, because we have many divisions at the National Museum, ”Pabunan said.

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Arline J. Mercier

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