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President's Message December 2013
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A Message from President Thomas Kraupe

photo of Thomas Kraupe

December 2013

Dear Fellow Planetarians:

How quickly does yet another year pass by—but what a great finale we have this time—with comet ISON performing "live on stage” right in front of us! The drama of a comet passing so close to the sun is just the right stuff for us to engage the minds of people, giving us all opportunities to combine both space-based and ground-based observations with our unique abilities to simulate ISON´s route across our sky and through the solar system and link all this to concepts of celestial mechanics and astrophysics, from the origin of our solar system to water and the story of us being starborn!

Along with Venus, Jupiter and Mars, we even have some more "testimonials” hanging around to build our case. Hence, how bright or weak the comet will be after perihelion is not really the issue here, because this celestial event creates enough momentum for all of us to showcase "why we need a planetarium.”

Allow me now to report on some items which have great potential for the future of our beloved planetariums.

From roots to fruits of the future
In August this year, IPS Council met in the Alpine Region of Europe. Munich ´s international airport served as gateway for this offyear council meeting, giving delegates the chance to get together a few days earlier and receive a warm welcome on Munich’s "Museum Island" by Wolfgang Heckl, the charismatic director general of Deutsches Museum.

Ulrich Kernbach, head of exhibition, guided our special tour of this unique museum, which is world´s first science and technology museum and is currently gearing up for a major expansion phase.

This phase will culminate in 2025, the museum´s centennial, which will also be the centennial of our planetarium profession, since the projection planetarium was invented by Zeiss for this museum and the first-ever planetarium (after some tests in Munich and Jena beginning in 1923) as part of the opening of Deutsches Museum on May 7, 1925.

The date was chosen to coincide with the 70th birthday of Oskar von Miller, founder and driving force for the museum and planetarium idea.

Delegates and guests really enjoyed standing next to the legendary Zeiss Mark I projector, which is still on display there, while, next door, the planetarium theater is being completely modernized and will be reopened by the end of 2013. It will feature a Zeiss-Velvet digital fulldome system. The larger dome at Forum der Technik is also currently closed and will be rejuvenated as part of the 2025 plans of the museum.

Three hours at Deutsches Museum were just enough to see just a few of its masterpieces and to whet the appetite for coming back again soon!

We also agreed to team up with Heckl to use all the archives and expertise available to look into the early years of planetarium history, uncover untold stories, and reveal what happened in these pioneering years. This will be perfect for both our magazine and a possible special publication devoted to our own heritage.

But Bavaria and Munich is not just a region of great history and heritage—it is also an arena for high-tech space sciences of tomorrow. A huge research hub has been established in recent years in Garching, located between downtown Munich and Munich airport.

It features several Max Planck institutes (astrophysics, extraterrestrial physics) and the headquarter of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Just a few months ago, ESO, the most productive observatory on Earth (head-to-head with the Hubble Space Telescope) celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Lars Lindberg Christensen, ESO’s head of education and public outreach department, International Astronomical Union press officer and IAU Commission 55 president, was the host during our visit at ESO and gave council members an overview about this outstanding astronomy organization, which extends way beyond Europe with its new member Brazil and certainly with Chile, where all ESO telescopes are based.

The completion of Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the upcoming 39-m European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will have a tremendous impact on our understanding of the universe and on how we present it to our audiences. Since ESO will include a state-of-the art planetarium in its new visitor center, which is currently being built as part of the extensions of the headquarters in Garching, there is consensus that IPS and ESO can benefit from working together much more closely.

After a tour of the construction site, we visited the image lab and production studio and saw what ESO outreach already offers for our educational work: tremendous assets, including 271 high-resolution panoramas, time-lapse scenes and gigapixel sky surveys. All material is available online at and visuals can be used freely. All text usually is available in 21 languages.

To develop further and harvest these fruits of the future, a memo of understanding between IPS and ESO is in preparation. I like to thank Lars and his dedicated team for this great opportunity and the wonderful hospitality. I will keep you informed about next steps and joint possibilities.

Next came South Tyrol
Continuing from Garching, a three-hour bus ride through southern Bavaria brought Council into the beautiful Alpine mountain scenery and across Austria to our hotel in Bolzano in South Tyrol (Northern Italy).

The same evening, we had arranged for a really cool surprise for council at the South Tyrolian Museum of Archaeology: museum director Andrea Fleckinger gave us a special after-hours tour and introduced the worlds oldest mummy, famous Iceman Oetzi (the British dubbed him "Frozen Fritz”). This set the stage for our quest to link the story of us—past human history and the evolution of the environment and the cosmos we live in.

South Tyrol can indeed be regarded as a crossroad of human, geological, and cosmic histories. And being bilingual—German and Italian (plus English, which is also used practically in all public intuitions)—this beautiful region in Europe can serve as a wonderful example for intercultural collaboration and development.

I am sure that Council members also witnessed that during our meeting, which was held next to the brand new Planetarium South Tyrol. This 8-m, high-resolution digital 3D planetarium is directly attached to the school, kindergarten, and community complex in the village of Gummer (part of the community of Karneid) and works jointly with the Max Valier Public Observatory.

At the Council meeting
The Council meeting was truly remarkable, since we not only selected the host for the IPS conference following Beijing, but also announced IPS Vision 2020 as an important step to move our society forward to a healthier future. The atmosphere, spirit and decisions achieved by Council were truly outstanding and I like to thank all Council members and my fellow officers, with IPS Secretary Lee Ann Hennig in particular, for the dedicated work which will benefit all of us in the future!

I also want to thank our dear friend Shoiche Itoh, who I sometimes call "Mr. Planetarium of Japan,” for joining Council to present to us the opportunities offered to planetariums by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

NAOJ is a pioneer in developing data sets and software (Mitaka) for visualization of astrophysical phenomena in space and time. I am very pleased that Itoh-san agreed to be on the team of the new IPS Science and Data Visualization
Task Force, chaired by Mark SubbaRao, and I expect to see NAOJ´s pioneering work on more domes soon.

For more details about our Council meeting, please have a look at the minutes that start on page 17. But let me just briefly mention two more events arranged during that meeting. On the first evening, Albin Kofler, mayor of the community of Karneid, invited all of us to the breathtaking medieval Castle of Karneid, where all of us had a blast! 

Sitting next to the owners, the Duke and Duchess of Karneid, we could reveal that they are indeed relatives of Munich´s Oskar von Miller, the "grandfather” of the first planetarium.

That is why I think that our tour really beautifully connected heritage and future of our field. And we certainly paid attention to the real sky; our last evening coincided with the maximum of the Perseid meteor shower, which traditionally is celebrated in Bolzano/Bozen as Laurentius Nacht, the Night of St. Lawrence.

Many delegates joined the fabulous team of the Max Valier Society and spent a late night for meteor watching at the public observatory with its breathtaking panorama of the Dolomites and a marvelous sky with the Milky Way arching over us.

I am sure that none of us will ever forget these days and nights and the heart-warming people of South Tyrol. Many thanks especially to Mayor Albin Kofler and his enthusiastic team for inviting us and being such gracious hosts to IPS. All transportation to and from Munich and during the meeting, plus the fantastic
lunches and dinners, were organized and paid for by Albin Kofler´s community.

IPS has great friends in South Tyrol and we will continue to cooperate. Opportunities for professional training and IPS summer schools at Planetarium South Tyrol are in preparation. 

Two conferences in Warsaw
Congratulations to Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw (Poland), which was selected as host site for our IPS 2016 conference. Their concept of having basically all conference activities within the science center itself and not at an external conference facility seemed to have been particularly attractive to
Council members.

However, the two other bidders were both extremely competitive and all of us wish that both Telus World of Science (Vancouver, Canada) and Cité de l’espace (Toulouse, France) will consider to bid again for future IPS conferences. I am confident that we will also see IPS conferences at these sites in the future.

Just a few weeks ago—October 14-18—Copernicus Science Centre hosted the 2013 Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP) conference. CAP is organized by IAU Commission 55 and presided by the abovementioned Lars Lindberg Christensen of ESO. It was really great to meet several IPS members and activists at that meeting, among them two past presidents: Martin Ratcliffe and Martin George.

With around 200 participants from around the globe, this was the biggest CAP conference ever. Following the previous meetings in this series, CAP2013 considered challenges in communication of astronomy and space exploration, as well as the influence of these activities on science outreach and education.

Keeping the momentum from IYA
Many discussions developed about how the momentum gained from the extremely successful International Year of Astronomy 2009 can be kept alive and be intensified. The upcoming International Year of Light 2015 (IYL) might give us a new framework for some new initiatives, but our joint IYL-panel discussion at CAP revealed that IYL, so far, seems to lack a clear central focus or historic moment simple enough to communicate well to everybody like Galileo and 400 years of the telescope. Still, IYL 2015 offers opportunities for all of us and at CAP 2013 we took the first step in the process of joining forces between IAU and IPS in
this matter.

The meeting really demonstrated how useful some of the newer formats for presentation are, like "unconference” and workshops sessions as well as interactive planetarium shows. They can lead to more interaction between delegates and contribute to a better conference experience.

CAP 2013 also demonstrated that our future hosts are up to the task of organizing such events. Working with the energetic and innovative team of Copernicus Science Centre towards IPS 2016 will be very rewarding and has the potential to move our conference experience to a new level.
Hello From Beijing!
Hello from China: From left, Candice Cui (MR agent), Xiao Lin (BJP), Dr. Jin Zhu (Director of BJP), Dr. Dongni Chen (Deputy Director of BJP), Xin Li (BJP), Dr. Ziping Zhang (BJP), Yuying Song (BJP), Jon Elvert and Thomas Kraupe. 

IPS 2014 in China: many firsts
Speaking of IPS conferences in the future, our IPS 2014 conference in Beijing is only six months away (June 23-27, 2014). This issue of our magazine includes an update from our host. (See pages 12-14) More detail and the latest updates are available through the IPS website ( and the respective
links to the conference website. 

Also, please make sure you check with the Chinese embassy in your country to verify the necessary steps for obtaining visa for your entry into this rapidly-evolving country.

The IPS 2014 conference will be unique in many ways, so you should not miss it! It will be the first ever IPS conference in China and (after Osaka, Japan in 2006) only the second IPS conference to ever take place in Asia. Never before have we had more than one large and permanent dome available for the entire conference to present, not just technologies but examples of best practice in educating and inspiring audiences in planetariums. Great content is the key for success of our planetariums, so we will prepare a specific focus on excellent content at IPS 2014.

Macao Science Center
The Macao Science Center

New: IPS awards, fulldome festival

The Beijing conference will be the first IPS conference where we present IPS awards for planetarium shows and showcase the winning fulldome productions as part of the conference program.

The winners will be selected from the IPS-Macao International Fulldome Festival (IPS-MIFF). This festival is open to all IPS members, invited guests and individuals interested in fulldome media. The festival will be held at the impressive Macao Science Center on June 18-21 as one of the 2014 pre-conference events.

The festival will feature films suitable for showing in fulldome in 2D or 3D domemaster format with a maximum resolution of 8k (8192x8192 square pixels), plus a range of related events.

Special attention will be devoted to the educational aspects of the respective productions.

Adjudication will be held on 19-20 June 2014. From 21-29 June, the festival films also will be shown to the general public in Macao.

I am really pleased that the board of Macao Science Center has the vision to host such an international festival in cooperation with IPS. Many thanks to Che-Kuen Yip, who has been essential in moving this forward.

So plan for extra days in China to attend not only this festival in Macao, but also to visit the nearby Hong Kong Space Museum and its awesome astronomy park.

Details, including guidelines and rules for entering your production into the competition, should be already listed on the IPS website by now.* Check also your other options for pre- and post-conference tours and make sure that your passport and visa will be appropriate for entry and re-entry into the respective territories on these dates.
(*Please keep your eye on the website for more information)

New IPS committee
A key mission of our organization is to help share experience among our members so that we can better serve our audiences and succeed in our desire to teach and inspire people on Earth about the cosmos.

But IPS, in recent years, did not offer any dedicated point of contact or forum for help in the tricky process of launching or relaunching a planetarium, despite the fact that in recent years many planetariums were going through the process of renewal or substantial technical upgrades.

As I feel strongly that any planetarium design and technology can only be successful when it is developed along with the staffing and the operations, I asked Ian McLennan, long-term expert in the field, to chair the newly-instituted IPS Planetarium Design and Operations Committee.

In addition to the Science and Data Visualization Task Force chaired by Mark SubbaRao, this brand new IPS committee will have the purpose to provide high-level guidelines for 21st century planetarium design and management/operational considerations and address "best practices” based on experience gained from its members as well as relevant outside sources.

This committee will also act as a proactive technical liaison with other parallel organizations, including but not limited to IPS affiliates as well as IMERSA, the Giant Screen Cinema Association, LIPS, the Association of Science-Technology Centers, the Asia Pacific Network of Science and Technology Centers, and the European Network of Science Centres and Museums.

One ongoing task for Ian´s committee will be to update our publication/guideline "So You Want To Build a Planetarium” and keep it up to date on a biannual basis, probably in the form of a web-based "wiki” document. For the upcoming conference in Beijing, we will set up a session on that subject, showing some of the major pitfalls one should avoid when launching new planetariums.

I salute Ian for taking on this important task as chair in a non-biased and vendor-neutral fashion for the benefit of a living and growing planetarium community. 

Please check the respective committee web pages if you want to learn more. See also Mark´s article about the first steps of the Science and Data Visualization Task Force on pages 20-22.

As I mentioned in previous messages, I will continue to reshape committees and their tasks so that your membership will hopefully be enriched by access to more expertise and resources. Your active support is essential in that process.

IPS Vision 2020
Our profession faces tremendous changes and challenges, it has become obvious that the two-year term of an IPS president is quite short in order to design and implement necessary change.

So I felt it would be best to team up early on with my successor, President-Elect Paul Knappenberger, and work on a joint long-term plan for our organization which we termed IPS Vision 2020.

Every healthy organization plans for its evolution, and 10-year intervals seem to be a realistic time frame for strategic planning. In order to be effective, such a planning process must be inclusive, providing opportunities for input from all of our members, including individuals and institutions.

We want input from all types of planetariums: stand alones, portables, those in natural history museums, science centers, schools, and universities, as well as our vendors and external partners.

In creating our Vision 2020, we must anticipate what will be different in 10 years and answer the question "How can IPS better serve and support its members?” The process of creating Vision 2020 provides a means of engaging our younger members, who have unique perspectives and enthusiasm. 

Together we will review and update, where appropriate, and in a coordinated manner the IPS mission, by-laws and procedures; format and effectiveness of Council meetings; conference guidelines and best practices; standing committees; awards; and other aspects of the ways that IPS serves its community of members.

Vision 2020 can provide the opportunity to grow and better support IPS membership in every region around the world. Watch out for an upcoming survey and stay in touch with your representative on council; we want your input in this step-by-step process which we initiated at the council meeting in South Tyrol.

As always, onwards and upwards!

Thomas W. Kraupe

President, International Planetarium Society Inc.
Director, Planetarium Hamburg
Planetarium Hamburg,Otto-Wels-Str. 1, D-22303 Hamburg, Germany
Phone: +49 (40) 4288652-21 | iPhone: +49 (172) 4086133 | Fax: +49 (40) 427924850 |
skype: tomkraupe


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