A quick trip to Jupiter and space probe Juno in the domed theatre

Every Tuesday night, astronomers with the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute organise ‘DOT Live Planetarium’. It’s a 3D show about planets in ‘the snowball’, the Groningen domed movie theatre with a diametre of twenty metres.

Anna Jonkers looks up in wonder. It’s the first time the European languagues and cultures student visits the domed theatre. ‘I know absolutely nothing about the universe’, she confesses. ‘I expect I’ll learn a lot.’

Sitting next to her is astronomy student Jule Straat. She’s been to one of these shows about the planets before. She and her entire study group visited the planetarium at the end of a semester. ‘We wanted to see the things we’d learned in real life’, she says.

Solar system

This week’s show is about the Juno probe, the spacecraft that has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, studying the biggest planet in our solar system. 

‘Juno moves at approximately four kilometres a second, so she would be able to fly from here to Zernike in a tenth of a second.’ Alessandro Angrilli Muglia’s voice echoes through the room. The bachelor student of astronomy presents the show together with master student Carmen Hoek.

Then we hear Carmen furiously clicking her mouse. She is searching her three computer screens for the right coordinates. Carmen is flying the spaceship today, or rather, the giant screen on the inside of the dome. She adds one more special effect and then… a spacecraft resembling a ceiling fan with three arms appears on the giant domed screen.

Astronomy student Carmen Hoek controlling the big screen of the domed theater.


When people hear about DOT, they immediately start talking about the popularisation of science, says astronomer Edwin Valentine, after the show is over. He’s the one who came up with the idea and the design for the planetarium theatre. But he’s not a fan of the term ‘popularisation’. ‘I really hate that word.’ 

He prefers the ‘experience of immersive visualisation’. ‘Something that is completely stunning’, he explains. ‘DOT is a theatre, not a classroom.’ And yet: ‘We hope to unite scientists and the general public’, he says.

People told him they remembered showings ‘from many years ago’, says Valentijn. ‘That’s how impressed they were by them.’ That’s what motivated him to create a planetarium in Groningen.

New life

The theatre first opened in 2014, under the name ‘Infoversum’. But the building, which looks kind of like a spaceship or a snowball, didn’t receive enough visitors. Instead of the expected 250,000 visitors, only 40,000 people visited the Infoversum, which went bankrupt in 2015.

A year later, catering company Bos&Bos revived the property by opening up a restaurant and an outdoor café, tending to customers from the city beach next to the dome. Ever since, the venue has been used for various events ranging from fondue festivals, musical performances, conferences, and the weekly planet show.

‘It’s all so enormous’, says Anna enthusiastically at the end of the show. ‘It’s almost unreal. I can’t quite wrap my head around it.’ Jule can. ‘The shows are pretty easy to understand’, she says. ‘They don’t use a lot of difficult words. But it’s still a lot of fun.’


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