Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tombaugh IMAX Dome Theater and Planetarium

Roy and I went to the Tombaugh IMAX Theater to check out the domed screen presentation of the documentary, Tornado Alley.  The dome movie screen is not a 360 degree audience surround screen, as we had imagined.  The sides of the dome start at a level above one's head when seated, and the domed screen is tilted to be in front of the audience causing the view to be primarily overhead and curving to the sides.  The seating is plush and gives the feel of being in a cushioned easy chair.  The entrance fee we felt was a bit pricey at $6.00 per person for a 43 minute documentary that looks as though it may have aired on television.  The film was dated and out of focus.  The IMAX experience had some redeeming qualities, but I would recommend seeing a different film.  The film, Tornado Alley, put the focus on the storm chasers more than the tornadoes.  The experience that we felt was redeeming was the feeling of flying through the air in an armchair and being set down in different locations! Because the surrounding images felt so life-sized, it was at times like being right in the scene.  This was particularly true when we felt we were set down in the middle of a neighborhood street, as the wind blew things about.  Another amazing scene was being in a neighborhood in the aftermath of a tornado.  I have never felt the total devastation of a tornado from any t.v. news broadcast like I did experiencing it on the big screen! We also learned of a movie director's dream to film the inside of a tornado and the vehicle he built for the job called TIV (i.e. Tornado Interceptor Vehicle)!  With every activity, Roy and I learn something new!  By the way, the Tombaugh Theater is named for the American astronomer, Clyde W. Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto, several asteroids, and advocated for serious research into UFOs!
This is TIV-2, the truck filmmaker Sean Casey built for filming inside tornadoes!  The truck is built to withstand the 220 mph winds that tornadoes produce!  The 14,000 pound TIV-2 is based on a Ram pickup.  It has six wheels, with a tandem set in the rear.  The truck is armored with 2" thick aluminum, bullet proof glass, and steel.  The armor plates slide down to the pavement on each side preventing the truck from being lifted.  For even more stability, it uses steel spears that shoot 3' into the ground!  A rotating turret sits on top of the truck for the cameraman.  It has 360 degree capability and can open when the weather permits.  The TIV-2 tops out at 100 mph, which is said to be fast enough to outrun a storm.  Driver and medic Marcus Gutierrez says it's just like driving a regular truck, with a few add-on pieces!  We say, "How cool is this!" 
A few days later we returned to the Tombaugh Theater to take in the planetarium presentation.  The admission fee is $3.50 per person for a 50 minute presentation.  Pinpoints of light are projected onto a darkened screen to represent the night sky over Alamogordo.  The view is changed according to the direction a person would be looking and the location of the stars in different seasons.   An instructor gives a presentation on constellations and tells of the mythology behind them.  We learned the shape of several star patterns and that what most people would call constellations are technically called asterisms!  Apparently, a constellation is an internationally defined area of the celestial sphere!  Asterisms are the patterns formed by prominent stars, but in non-technical language are referred to as constellations.  If you hang-out with astronomers, you have to get it right!  We also learned that asterisms such as the Big Dipper are not internationally known by the same name or even by the same shape!  Although we felt the points of light could have been projected more sharply for a better presentation, we still learned a lot!