When I was six my best friend I sometimes spent the night at my best friend Skipper’s house.(My friends had names like that, including Dude.) One special treat was sitting in the living room with the lights off while a toy shone constellations of starts on the ceiling. It seemed magical. Of course I was very used to looking at the night sky for the same arrays, but this was indoors and very unusual.
Later the local science museum built the planetarium shown in the image above. Here the seats reclined, the ceiling opened up, and lights mimicked the sky, changing over time and seasons. While we were supposedly listening to the scientist droning on and on about astronomy, I for one just relaxed into the chair and dreamed.
When my daughter was little, she insisted that we put adhesive backed glow in the dark stars on her ceiling. She seemed to find them as magical as I had at Skipper’s house.
Sadly light pollution, especially in the part of the country where I now live, has drastically reduced the view of the night sky with just a naked eye. I remember always finding the Milky Way as a child. Now apparently it is obscured for 80% of North America. So pervasive is light up and down the East coast that Maine distinguishes itself by having a “Dark Sky Festival.” I hope that all kids will have a chance at some point in their lives to see a night sky full of stars. I hate to think their only experience will come from the recreations of toys, planetariums and ceiling stickers.