The Planetarium Laser Show Returns — with a Twist

By Anne Mostue

June 20, 2012

laser show

A tangle of "laser" light projections on the planetarium's 57-foot domed screen. Sweet. (Museum of Science)

BOSTON — Do you remember Friday nights at the Museum of Science in high school and college? Laser lights, special effects and Pink Floyd and Zeppelin. This summer it's back — but with a local band and a 21st-century touch. 
"The technology is video projection, but like video projection on steroids," said David Rabkin, director of the Museum of Science planetarium.
To be exact, it isn't actually a laser show.
"It's all digital video, there's no lasers involved," he explained. "The range of colors and the detail and the motion that we can do now, there's just no comparison. It's a completely different media."
Using the same 3-D digital animation software that engineers at Pixar use, the Museum of Science staff have animated an album's worth of '70s-style rock music by the band Ghosts of Jupiter.
The result is a trippy movement through space, the human body and whirling geometric shapes. At times it can even induce a little vertigo.
The show is purely entertainment, Rabkin said, in keeping with the previous, popular laser shows.
"It was sort of this cultural icon, and I think sort of a rite of passage is a good way to think about it. Sort of a touchpoint in Boston," he said.
Rabkin called this the most technologically advanced digital theater in New England, thanks to a $9 million renovation that was completed last year and funded through the Charles Hayden Foundation and private donations.
And he was eager to point out that the museum isn't just for children. The new animation and other planetarium shows are attracting lots of adults, including Ghosts of Jupiter guitarist Johnny Trama.
"When I first came to town I think I was here every weekend. That's why this is like really cool," Trama said. "Back then it was just a couple of squiggly lines in the dark. Now it's — I mean, you're literally flying through space. It's pretty cool."
"The Ghosts of Jupiter: Music Experience" opens June 22 at the Museum of Science.

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