The top three things on my bucket list are;
Yes, I know that it is highly unlikely that any of these will ever happen BUT on February 11, 2017, at Cha’an Ka’an Planetarium in Cozumel, with the aid of the telescopes I was as good as sitting on the moon. I never found the man on the moon, but I did see a rabbit!
What an unbelievable experience! I was so impressed that it has prompted me to share what I saw in our magnificent universe with you and to tell you all about this fantastic planetarium.
Firstly what I experienced during my visit;
We were guided to the dome on the roof of the planetarium and given a short presentation of the telescopes. We then stood outside on the top of the roof and with these super green laser torches; an astronomical laser pointer, 1000mwatts (the beam looks like it is actually touching the stars), Antonio pointed out specific star clusters, zodiac signs, and planets, in particular, Venus and Mars. When looking at the star clusters, the Pleiades with a naked eye it is only possible to see about seven to eight stars. Looking through the telescope hundreds were visible and close enough to touch (I wish), simply spectacular!
On the roof outside the dome, a smaller telescope was ready for us to view the moon the minute it popped up in view; a balloon suspended in the sky. Just for fun, the moon was reflected from the telescope onto the wall for me to hold and kiss!!
Now we went onto the best part of the evening in my opinion; to view the moon through the large telescope in the dome. There are two views, the first is of the whole moon much closer than the telescope outside on the roof and the second view, my favorite, is a really close-up view where you can see craters of all shapes and sizes in detail. I could feel my hands drifting through the moon’s surface and the surface soil sifting through my fingers from this view. I did not want to leave (the photos from my camera taken from the lens of the telescope simply cannot capture the magnitude of this experience).
Back outside on the roof, we were educated on the Orion constellation. The seven stars, namely Rigel (the brightest), Saiph, Bellatrix, Betelgeuse, Alnitak, Alnilam and Minataka. The last three make up Orion’s belt. It is absolutely fascinating to learn of the Mayan theologies in respect to the stars and planets. The myth is that; Orion stalked all of the Pleiades, so Zeus transformed the Pleiades first into doves, and then into stars. When Orion died Zeus put him in the sky near the Pleiades so he could still stalk them from across the night sky.
There was so much to see and be shown it would take me pages to write about, but I must mention viewing the brightest star – Sirius. Looking at Sirius, you can plainly see it is much brighter than the others that are visible; look at it through the telescope, and it almost blinds you, very impressive and beautiful.
A visit to the planetarium is not just about the viewing; it’s about the knowledge and information Antonio, Pedro and Adam shared and the general conversation held with them and the other guests. Before you know it you’ve spent an incredible quality three hours on the roof of the planetarium.
Secondly – about the planetarium;
The planetarium is funded by the Municipality, Federal and National entities. It is a non-profit organization and has a staff of fourteen. Any monies received from tours etc. is redirected for maintenance of the establishment and equipment.
Let me quickly tell you about the staff. I am blown away by the friendliness, enthusiasm, and willingness to please from all the staff here, certainly the best I have encountered in Mexico so far. Their pleasant attitude and fabulous smiles are truly welcoming.
Entering the planetarium you walk into a massive room, so clean you can eat off the floor. There is an education room, a conference room, a 3D movie theater (that’s the huge dome structure) a water and a Mayan museum.
So the question is – Why to build it in Cozumel. Well for two very good reasons;
From all the planetariums in Mexico, Cozumel has the darkest skies enabling the best observations.
At certain times of the year (Sept 22 to March 20) it is the only place to see the first sunrise.
The 3D technology that is hosted at Cha’an Ka’an is the only type of its kind available in the whole of Latin America. To get an idea of the magnitude of this achievement – Mexico alone has thirty planetariums similar to this one.
The smaller one that is used on the roof is 130mm with a focal length of 650mm.
The one inside the dome has two lenses, 400mm with a focal length of 4096mm and the other one is 60mm with a focal length of 600mm.
Inside the dome, the humidity is exceptionally high and by using a de-humidifier about forty liters of moisture from the air is extracted every day. Believe me; it gets hot in there.
A little Mayan history for you; the moon jumps over the Island, in other words, it does not have a steady flow each evening as it gradually moves through the skies, instead it is a sporadic path in different directions. The Mayan’s believed that when it was a New moon, the moon fell into a cenote (an underwater spring). The Maya would come over to the Island to pray or give praises to the Moon Goddess Ixchel; for them to be blessed by her during the women’s pregnancy. Interesting!!
There are many more fascinating Mayan stories to be heard when you visit.
There is always something happening at the Cha’an Ka’an Planetarium. They have a very interactive Facebook site, the best site on the Island. It is very informative, even to the point that on evenings when they are open by 6.30pm the confirmation that viewing is either on or off is posted. If you send them a message, you can be guaranteed of a reply within ten minutes.
They are open every day except Sundays. Night viewing is every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday unless there is a special event such as meteors, full moons, and super moons. Every day from 3 pm to 4 pm you can view the sun, and they give guided tours to any organization.
I am truly impressed by this establishment, and it is by far the highlight of my year in Cozumel, I cannot believe it has taken me so long to get here. Now I’m eagerly looking forward to the special occasions like viewing Jupiter, Saturn, Meteors; there are so many.
If you live in or are visiting Cozumel do yourself a great service and pay them a visit, you will not be disappointed.
Oh, yes, can you see the rabbit?
Please pop over to my Facebook page and take a look at all the photos https://www.facebook.com/media/set/edit/a.386124828414685.1073741908.126986487661855/