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President's Message June 2013
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A Message from President Tom Kraupe

photo of Thomas Kraupe

June 2013
Dear Fellow Planetarians:

While I am writing this column for you, I can´t help but I feel a bit torn apart between extremes: on one side, our world is showing a devastating face of terror, where innocent people are being killed or live in poverty— and there is the other side, the mind-boggling "wonderworld" of new scientific discoveries on all scales of the universe.

There has been an unprecedented lineup of discoveries, from nearby earthlike planets (NASA Kepler) to details of the early universe 13.8 billion light years away from us (ESA Planck Mission). We live in a world where our mind has to deal with such extremes and an ever-increasing load of events from around the world.

So, how do we manage to peer through such an overload and still reach the minds and hearts of the people? I truly believe we have a vital asset for that: our planetariums! They are the unique and ideal communication platform helping to unite people and remind them what we all have in common: "one sky—one spaceship Earth—one people.”

Even when societies face big challenges, we planetarians should neither slow down nor give up with our "Mission to Earth.” And we all know that we have the biggest impact with our youngest audiences and so we should focus on them. For young children visiting our planetariums the first time, it could be a life changing experience.

Remember when you were young? All of us who grew up during the early days of the space race got so much inspiration from the men and woman who boldly went where no one had gone before.

People are interested in people, and so we really have to think about the individuals related to exploration and scientific adventures in our time. Who would you consider? Can you attract them for an event in your theater or work with them to continue their legacy?  

50 years ago–and to the future 

Yaroslavl Planetarium

 Yaroslavl Planetarium

 Valentina Tereskova Mosaic

Among the big "names from the past,” you certainly focus on Yuri Gagarin and Neil Armstrong, but do not forget Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to fly in space on 16 June 1963, 50 years ago! She had been selected from more than 400 applicants and five finalists to pilot Vostok 6.

In order to join the Cosmonaut Corps, Tereshkova was only honorarily inducted into the Soviet Air Force and thus she also became the first civilian to fly in space! She spent nearly 3 days in space and orbited Earth 49 times. Believe it or not, it took 19 years until the second woman, Svetlana Savitskaya, flew into space.

I hope that I can meet Valentina in person at one of the upcoming festivities in Russia. Already last year I had the privilege of being invited, along with German cosmonaut Sigmund Jaehn, to the new "Valentina Tereshkova Planetarium” in Yaroslavl, Central Russia, near where she was born in 1937, and I met her daughter there.

The marvelous architecture of this planetarium with a beautiful mosaic artwork in the lobby dedicated to Valentina not only houses a state-of-the-art digital fulldome theater, but also wonderful exhibt areas and interactive spaces.

A salute to "Chaika" (in English, Seagull, Valentina’s call sign in this flight and later commemorated as the name of an asteroid, 1671 Chaika) and all cosmonauts and planetarians in Russia! You all will continue to inspire and engage many more generations— and girls in particular— about space and the environment we all live in.

As you can see, there are great stories which need to be told not just in one cultural area, but all around the world. We share so much, and hence the "I” in IPS is growing in importance. All of us will benefit if we manage to improve our communications and our exchange of concepts and success stories in our planetarium theaters. 

IPS and IDA 
A good example of what an international network can achieve is the program Losing the Dark, a free new resource for planetariums everywhere.

This presentation is a 61/2 minute public service announcement from IDA, the International Dark-Sky Association, and Loch Ness Productions that clearly and engagingly illustrates how our world is being drowned in light pollution. This topic is extremely relevant for all of us and that is why the IPS provided seed money to start the project.

Originally released in English, the program may now be downloaded for free in a variety of formats and languages (currently available is a German, Hindi, Korean, and Spanish version, with more languages soon to come). An article about this project has already been published in the March issue of Planetarian. Links to the download area can be found on our homepage at

IPS 2014 in China 
When you read this message, I will just have returned from a site inspection in Beijing in China, the site of our next IPS conference. On this trip I was in the company of Jon Elvert, our host in 2012, in order to secure his experience and best practice from IPS 2012 in Baton Rouge, which was such an extremely successful conference. You can be sure that our host, Dr. Jin Zhu, and his great team in Beijing will amaze us with yet another unforgettable IPS conference in 2014!

We want to make IPS 2014 as accessible as possible for a large number of IPS members on site. In addition, we also consider enhancing virtual access to the conference through the internet and making downloads of recorded presentations (keynotes) available for later viewing.

Despite the growing importance of remote access through new streaming and online media, you should not underestimate the importance of joining this event in Beijing. There is nothing like it when you feel the energy in the room filled with planetarians from around the world! Mark your calendar now for the conference date of June 23-27, 2014. IPS 2014 in Beijing will be an experience not to miss!

Please check the conference website for updates. More details will be posted soon and sent out to IPS members. My next President´s Message will tell you how things are progressing. If you have any questions regarding this conference, please do not hesitate and contact me or my fellow officers. 

D-day approaching for IPS 2016 
August 11-13, IPS council will gather in South Tyrol in Northern Italy and decide where we will go for the 2016 conference. The three sites competing for IPS 2016—Telus World of Science in Edmonton (Canada), Citè Espace in Toulouse (France), and Copernicus Science Center in Warsaw (Poland)—have made their cases.

Please review once more the March issue of this magazine, or look at the online versions on the IPS homepage. Now is your last opportunity to communicate with your representative on council (see page 2) and let him or her know what you think and what questions should be answered before decision day. 

CAP 2013 and Year of Light 2015 
From October 14-18 I will certainly attend the conference "Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2013" in Warsaw, Poland. This important conference gathers research scientists and industry representatives as producers of astronomical and space-related information with public information officers in the field , science journalists, and staff members from planetariums, museums and science centers.

CAP is a very interesting forum to discuss and evaluate ways for communicating astronomy in many different ways. See www.communicatingastronomy. org/cap2013 [url broken].

Along with Robert Firmhofer, host and current president of ECSITE, I am working on a special panel targeting what planetariums and IPS can offer to complement the CAP strategy of the International Astronomical Union beyond 2013. This, in particular, will put the upcoming International Year of Light 2015 in focus.

Following the lessons learned in the International Year of Astronomy, we should start to plan early! I do encourage you to participate in this endeavor. More information will be made available as we move forward. 

Officer Meeting in Denver 
The team of IPS officers met in Denver on February 9-10 during the IMERSA Summit. The agenda included a review of our conference guidelines and how we can help membership and council evaluate/assess conference bids. Improved guidelines are being worked upon and will be discussed at the council meeting in August.

Dan Neafus and his team at the Denver Museum of Natural History put together a really great showcase during the summit that spanned the history and the future aspects of immersive media. We were very pleased about this opportunity, which led to a joint meeting of the IPS officers with IMERSA’s board members.

Although there are wide differences in scope, with IMERSA barely having an international member base and IPS with its worldwide system of affiliates, there are also many similarities in terms of passion and desire for growth. There are many opportunities for mutually-beneficial collaboration. IMERSA has the edge in terms of focusing on technologies and areas where entertainment meets education and the arts meet science, hence in a zone where creativity happens. Several more or less experimental presentations in Denver were great examples for that.

We agreed that a collaboration between IPS and IMERSA should move forward in steps and target specific areas where we can achieve concrete results by benefitting from each others strengths. Areas selected for that are in particular:

  • Immersive media/fulldome standards following  DIGGS (which was funded in part by IPS)
  • Awards for excellence
  • Cross promotion of conferences
  • Providing opportunities for professional development
Details will have to be determined yet and we surely have to build on the expertise of our members. We are confident that steps can be agreed upon this summer so that we can move forward.

We thank Dan Neafus and the whole IMERSA board for their hospitality and look forward towards a new level of exchange among our organizations.

In the light of the digital revolution in the planetarium field, IPS really needs to set specifications— at least basic operation standards— based on planetarium needs, which will provide guidelines for those who plan, build and operate planetariums with content for audiences of today. As I have outlined already, a cooperative approach with IMERSA will help here, but there is more at stake: IPS needs to think where it wants to go in the future.

Along with IPS President-elect Paul Knappenberger, I am working on steps towards such a long-term strategy of IPS and this will be a key issue for discussions at the upcoming council meeting. 

IPS Task forces /Committees 
Re-launch of IPS committees is underway, but with some delays. You will notice on page 3 that some committees have finished their work and are terminated now, while only one new committee is listed. There will be more coming alive later this summer. 

I am very pleased however, that I can announce that Dr. Mark SubbaRao agreed to chair the new "Science & Data Visualization Task Force." Yes, I prefer "task force” over "committee.”

Mark is an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum in Chicago and a research scientist in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. As a member of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey team, he has already proven his expertise handling large data sets and writing codes.

As chair of this new IPS committee, he will focus on the "big data” that scientists gather with new space- and ground-based observatories and experiments.

He will help establish a workflow leading from these experiments and their corresponding computer data to science visualizations on our domes. For this endeavor he will connect with the big data hubs and supercomputing sites around the globe, Chicago, Geneva and Tokyo among them. I am convinced that this work will be a vital building block for the future of the planetarium.

As soon as council meets in August, you will receive news also about other committees and their tasks which are ready to launch and will provide us with debates and help guiding solutions and recommended standards.

Please note also that we are moving forward towards web publishing. This current issue of Planetarian is the first issue which is being published for all members simultaneously as printed version and as digital online version.

Back issues still will be available in PDF format online, and additional issues will be converted to "digizine” form on Issuu as time permits.

I would like to thank our webmaster Alan Gould for his dedication and expertise in all technical areas and our editor Sharon Shanks for her creativity and editorial excellence. In close collaboration with Alan, she is continuously improving not just the print version, but also the digital version of our magazine.

She has taken on the additional role of content editor for our website, including the digital version our magazine. She enriches it with an ever increasing number of links and cross references. These are great steps forward. Thanks also go to the oversight by Prof. Dale Smith, chair of IPS Publications Committee.

Don´t forget: your input is needed, especially your stories about what worked and what didn’t work in your planetarium. Now you can do that also on Facebook on our IPS group are many ways to contribute your most valuable assets—your knowledge and your passion—and help to shape the future of IPS and the planetarium.


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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