Ice Worlds: A Cool New Show at Armagh Planetarium

Ice Worlds, one of Armagh Planetarium’s Digital Theatre shows for Summer 2011, is a thrilling tour through space and time showcasing some of the most beautiful and chilly regions of the Solar System. What can audiences expect from this spectacular experience?

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A new ice age? Where London stands today was buried under kilometres of ice (Image credit: E&S)

Ice is everywhere. Of the worlds in our Solar System (gas giants excluded) only Venus has a completely ice-free surface. Everyone knows about the gleaming white polar caps of Earth and Mars, and, although there is a lot debate among scientists about their origin, we are sure that there are expanses of ice lurking in dark crater basins in the polar regions of both our Moon and even arid and parched Mercury. Moving beyond the Asteroid Belt, to regions where the Sun’s warmth dwindles to all but nothing, the satellites of the gas giant planets are thickly coated in or even entirely built of ice. Saturn has whirling around it trillions upon trillions of icy flakes and chunks making up the familiar rings. Moving further out still, beyond Neptune, we have the four dwarf planets, Pluto, Eris, Haumea and Makemake, and their satellites, all balls of ice. Out here, there are surely more dwarf planets to be discovered, and there are literally millions of comets, town-sized dirty snowballs, slowly drifting through the Oort Cloud.

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See Antarctica by coming to Armagh. (Image credit: E&S)

Given the ubiquity of ice, it is only proper that we explore our Solar System’s  frosty regions, and we do just that in Ice Worlds. This is a stunning full dome show from Evans & Sutherland filled with memorable scenes as epic in scale as any Hollywood blockbuster. Narrated by acclaimed actress Emily Watson, Ice Worlds soars through the Solar System, from Mars, locked in an ice age for millions of years, passing by a comet to those vast cosmic skating rinks, Europa and Enceladus. After a stopover on Titan, an ancient Earth in a deepfreeze, we land on our planet to learn that far from being a dead, cold substance, ice is very dynamic.  Mountains of ice undulate, get pushed over and collapse under their own weight all in slow motion. Ice has played a vital role in Earth’s history, ebbing and flowing with the coming and going of Ice Ages when great swathes of ice covered much of North America and Northern Europe, audiences will see a startling depiction of the ice sheets looming over contemporary London.

Image of enceladus from Ice Worlds

Geysers erupt from the frozen surface of Saturn's satellite Enceladus (Image credit: E&S)

Presently we’re in a warm period between ice ages.  Everyone knows how in recent years this warming trend is increasing thanks to us humans. The continued melting of polar ice and consequent freshening of the waters of the Arctic Ocean might stop some ocean currents  affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people.  Studying the ice worlds of space helps us understand the part that ice has played in the history of our own planet and our present day existence on it.

Ice Worlds is a beautiful and informative show for family audiences, why not escape the mid-summer heat (we can hope) by travelling to the coolest places in space?

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Julie Thompson, Digital Theatre Manager

(Article by Julie Thompson, Digital Theatre Manager)