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October 11, 2012

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Planned planetarium to be out of this world

SHANGHAI is planning a modern planetarium after the city's only astronomy museum disappointed local space enthusiasts.

The observatory at existing facilities in suburban Sheshan Hill is for scientific research only and the museum is equipped with no modern devices but displays pictures only.

The plan has thrilled local enthusiasts who recommended four venues in suburbs suitable for a planetarium and organized a poll on the Internet.

The venues are the Oriental Land in Qingpu District, Lingang New City in the Pudong New Area, Sheshan Hill in Songjiang District and Pujiang Town in Minhang District. By 6pm yesterday, Lingang New City in Pudong had the most votes, followed by Pujiang Town in Minhang and Sheshan Hill.

Tang Haimin, chief of Shanghai Observatory's science education sector, said each venue has its own advantages, but Lingang New City, next to the sea, has the best conditions for observation. Tang said the planetarium should have both good observation and transportation, and Pujiang Town has an obvious advantage for being close to downtown and along the Metro Line 8.

Working with the observatory, the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum has been working on draft plans for the planetarium. But it is still too early to say when they will break ground, Tang said yesterday.

Some parents who took their kids to the astronomical observatory and museum on Sheshan Hill during the holidays said they were disappointed.

Cheng Yong, father of a four-year-old boy, said the exhibits were too old and his son had little interest in pictures, display boards and bulky, outdated instruments.

"We expected to learn something new about the universe but there are all old-fashioned things. No movies. No spherical screens. No multimedia equipment. There is nothing that children can have an interest in playing," Cheng said.

Tang explained that the museum is a historic site.

"That's why Shanghai needs a planetarium. The existing facilities, apparently, could not satisfy the scientific desire of space fans," Tang said, adding that there should be a large planetarium hall where people could view thousands of stars and virtual performances like flying comets, an open observatory and advanced telescopes.


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