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Presidents' Message March 2013
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IPS President's Message
March 2013

photo of Thomas Kraupe

Dear Fellow Planetarians:

Welcome to 2013! Once more we survived another doomsday and our world still keeps on turning after Dec 12, 2012. A new round of our yearly calendar has already started.

"As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.” Isn´t this quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French pilot, writer and author of The Little Prince, also valid for us in the planetarium field?

In our planetariums we demonstrate night and day, the seasons, and all the other ongoing celestial cycles which make us aware that we are part of a larger story—the story of the universe, the story of us in the vast but inter-connected arena of the cosmos. How long our human culture will survive is certainly not written into any calendar nor the stars, but depends on us and how respectful and responsible we deal with each other and our home planet.

Like never before, we now have the tools and technologies in our planetarium theaters to connect humans with their cosmic story and empower them for a brighter future. Let us once more join forces for that—and it is the greatest honor for me to serve you once more in this endeavor as your new IPS president!

The new team of IPS officers

After two years as president elect, I picked up the reins of the IPS presidency following Dave Weinrich’s two-year term of office, and I would like to thank Dave on behalf of all of us in the IPS family for the great job he has done for the past two years. I have a hard act to follow, and am extremely happy to have Dave Weinrich for two more years right at my side and still in office as past president.

We will miss, however, his predecessor, Tom Mason, who left the team of officers after serving IPS for six years (as president-elect in 2007-08, president in 2009-10, and for the past two years as past president). I do hope I can still grab him as a "secret weapon” for specific tasks and missions of IPS in the future (his wisdom, paired with his British humor, needs to be spread further).

I am truly excited that Paul Knappenberger, former president of the prestigious Adler Planetarium in Chicago, is now our new president-elect and I welcome him aboard! Paul and I have known each other for a long time—in fact, since 1984.

Hence this is a marvelous team of officers working with me, especially because it includes Lee Ann Hennig, our excellent executive secretary, and Shawn Laatsch, who safe-guards our finances and membership matters.

Some 16 years have passed by since I wrote my first president´s message in March 1997, when I started my first term as IPS president (1997-98). It is hard to believe, but back then I welcomed Shawn Laatsch as our new treasurer and membership chair. Together with Lee Ann he has served IPS very well since then—what a commitment! I will be relying on them heavily, following the example of many of our past presidents.

Where are we going?

Comet Hale-Bopp put on its greatest show in March 1997, and now, 16 years later, we have PanSTARRS in our skies—and I am here again. Does that make me feel like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day? Not at all! Like PanSTARRS is just a precursor of greater things to come, the planetarium world and the IPS is moving forward towards an exciting and certainly challenging future. So much has changed or evolved since my last time in office, and so many changes lie ahead of us!

We have seen eight great IPS conferences since 1997. (I have not missed a single IPS conference since 1988.) We participated in council for making the IPS an even more international organization, accompanied by a marvelous evolution and re-launch of our journal Planetarian and our website (thanks to Sharon Shanks, Alan Gould and the guidance by Dale Smith, plus the IPS officers).

And a lot of us, even 16 years ago, were going through a revolution of planetarium technologies—from analog to mainly digital. These changes are accelerating and continuing.

In this 1997 message, I asked the question (abridged here):

Where is the planetarium going? Where do we want to go? Where does the audience want to go?

We should be aware that a planetarium never was a static, conservative medium. When the planetarium first came into being, astrophysics as we know it now didn´t exist and so most of the topics dealt with spherical astronomy. Along with the science of astronomy, the planetarium´s capabilities diversified; it evolved with our understanding of the cosmos.

We are pioneering new educational tools in group immersive teaching! Each planetarium has the potential to recreate a whole new universe, and each is unique (and this is part of the magic).

We certainly are in a phase of enormous change. New technologies like Full-dome video will revolutionize theaters and their way of show production. Will this be the end of the astronomer planetarium director? Will planetarium theaters turn into virtual theaters at theme parks, where astronomy is only one of many topics covered? I wonder how much will have changed until my term is over.

My focus as your IPS president will be on helping us planetarians to succeed in these exciting but demanding new immersive environments. I strongly believe we are the right people for a new dimension of global projects bringing together domes of all sizes—fixed and mobile—and leaving no one behind.

Instant tools of communication and social media have the potential to empower our IPS network and to amplify our efforts, but I think we need to use them more effectively in IPS and explore the potential of new formats like domecasts and mobile apps in public awareness and worldwide teaching.

After IPS 2012 in Baton Rouge

Our IPS conferences are a marvelous forum and the crowning of our activities. And our 2012 conference in Baton Rouge was a milestone in many respects. I know that this has been said already many times, but I want to repeat: What a great conference! Jon Elvert, his team at LASM and the people of Baton Rouge were just outstanding. Thank you again on behalf of IPS!

Attending such a conference with colleagues is tremendously inspiring. Putting people together in a room is like a magic recipe—going beyond simple arithmetic, it creates energy and momentum. What we can learn from this tremendously successful IPS 2012 conference? In order to evaluate that, IPS Executive Secretary Lee Ann Hennig and I joined our 2012 conference host Jon Elvert for a two day session of past and future IPS conference hosts on January 11-13, 2013 at Nottoway Plantation near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Thanks to Jon and his conference team and all participants, we collected quite a lot of best practice and new ideas which we will discuss in the upcoming weeks. This will help us adapting IPS conference organization and content in 2014 and beyond to the changing needs of our members and our medium.

At the end of May this will already be quite useful as I will travel to Bejing and meet again with our 2014 conference host Dr. Jin Zhu and his team. We will take a close look at the conference venue and discuss in particular logistical issues and help to ease participation of both vendors and planetarians from around the world.

Bejing will be a truly exciting place for us to meet and I expect that we will have yet another wonderful conference with record-breaking numbers and plenty of new members. Keeping such new members and young talents in our society, engaging and connecting them with activities in our organization, will be key for our future!

Officer meet in Denver at IMERSA

Although the IPS officers are in constant touch through email and Skype, in addition they have to meet face to face at least once a year. While you read this, your team of officers has already met in conjunction with IMERSA in Denver on February 9-10, 2013.

IMERSA was founded by members of IPS during our conference in Chicago in 2008 and I think it is about time to see where IMERSA is going and to discuss and clarify the relationship between IPS and IMERSA. That is why I decided to gather the team of IPS officers in Denver, allowing us to participate actively and explore this conference. I will report the results to you in my next president´s message.

Main items of the officer meeting are the preparation of the next IPS council meeting and everything that makes our organization and our meetings run smoothly, including the results from our Baton Rouge Post 2012 meeting.

2013 IPS Council Meeting

As you may know, during conference years, the IPS council meets for two days prior to the start of the conference. During non-conference years, we meet at a site chosen by the president. This time it was my choice and I decided to take council to the alpine region of Europe; the meeting will be held August 11-13 in South Tyrol, near the North Italian town of Bolzano.

The small but well-equipped new planetarium in South Tyrol, which is being opened in just a few weeks in this alpine environment where many cultures and languages meet, holds the chance for IPS to establish opportunities for professional training (workshops, summer schools, etc.). More details will be given in my next president´s message.

Please note that the date of Council meeting has astronomical significance, coinciding with the Perseid meteor shower during new moon.

IPS council members first will gather in Garching near Munich airport, where we will get a special welcome and tour of the newly-expanded headquarters of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), including a status report on ALMA and E-ELT and respective outreach activities. This continues efforts of past presidents to strengthen partnerships with major research organizations to establish new content partnerships for the upcoming new generation of observatories, space missions and research labs linked to outreach and professional development.

IPS 2016 Conference bids

One important item of business during this upcoming 2013 Council meeting is the selection of the site for our 2016 IPS conference. Three truly extraordinary and international sites are bidding for the conference, listed alphabetically by city:

  • Telus World of Science in Edmonton (Canada)
  • Citè Espace in Toulouse (France)
  • Copernicus Science Center in Warsaw (Poland)

Your input is important for Council to make its decision. Please review the articles that the three sites wrote for this issue of Planetarian and inform your regional affiliate representative of your preferences and arguments. Contact information for your representatives is on page 2 of each is-sue. Your representative has one vote in Council. You may also want to inform them of any other issues that you would like discussed at the Council meeting.

IPS Committees and between conferences?

Where is IPS between conferences? Are we just a society organizing a biannual conference?

These questions come to mind when many of us think about IPS. Just look at this magazine and many other publications and you can see that IPS is there between conferences. Our Standing Committees do a great job, mostly too silently but very effectively in the background.

But are we really making full use of the energy created at our conferences in the times-pan between? Aren´t we somewhat obsessed by technologies and tend to forget that we are managing theaters—in fact, the grandest theater of all: the theater of us and the universe.

Rarely do we discuss theatrical aspects, the quality of content and issues of how to present to an audience (The LIPS initiative is one great positive example).

Let us change that and go after technologies which connect people. With this all in mind, refocusing and re-structuring the work of IPS Ad Hoc Committees is very high on my "to do” list. Ad hoc committees should have clearly defined tasks leading up to presentations and visibility for best practice at the next IPS conference, to provide us with debates, and to help guide solutions and recommended standards. I will give you an update on committee tasks in my next President´s message.

On behalf of IPS, I look forward very much to many inspiring discussions and solutions relating to issues we are facing in the upcoming months and years. Be encouraged to write, fax or email me or any of the IPS officers!

We have many new young talents interested especially in our new digital fulldome medium, and we had better grab them and offer them creative opportunities before they leave this field and go somewhere else.

Together we can evolve the structure of IPS and make it a better organization, so take the time and send us a note if you have suggestions, questions or challenges! And be sure to check out our new website, which already offers many exciting tools to launch ongoing communications and projects beyond conference weeks.

Big things are coming, so get ready now for comet ISON, which is promising to put on a great show in November and December—probably the grandest show we will ever see in our skies during our lifetimes! Let us join in IPS and put this growing excitement into creativity and inspiration. In our immersive theaters, the sky is no longer the limit—the limit is only our imagination, and that is boundless.

Onwards and upwards!

Thomas W. Kraupe
President, International Planetarium Society Inc.
Director, Planetarium Hamburg
Planetarium Hamburg, Hindenburgstr.1b, D-22303 Hamburg, Germany
Phone: +49 (40) 4288652-50 | iPhone: +49 (172) 4086133 | Fax: +49 (40) 427924850   |
skype: tomkraupe

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