University of Cambridge > > Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science > The view from here, there and nowhere? Situating the observer in the planetarium and in the solar system

The view from here, there and nowhere? Situating the observer in the planetarium and in the solar system

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The projection planetarium has probably been the most important single device for communicating astronomy since the early 20th century. I look at the ways in which early planetariums encouraged the rehearsal by spectators of different spatial positions and bodily relationships with regards to (models of) the solar system. Acquiring a proper understanding of the solar system did not simply require participants to adopt ‘the view from nowhere’ but involved a spatial, physical and sensory journey through multiple viewpoints that often also rehearsed an idealised history of astronomy. Widely praised for its illusionistic rendering of the night skies, the modern planetarium was also a showcase for the precision technology of its maker Carl Zeiss, offering an experience simultaneously of simulated Nature, of astronomy and of technological mastery. Astronomy, the quintessential science of space and time, afforded in the planetarium an occasion for reflecting in broader ways on individuals’ and humans’ place in the modern world. Planetariums may be understood as materializing and promoting particular epistemological and pedagogical conceptions of the knowing subject; while they partook in the collective reflection on Nature, science and technology in modernity.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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