Teaching planetary science using a spherical projector to show the planets’ surfaces is a very effective but usually very expensive idea. Whatsmore, it usually assumes the availability of a dedicated space and a trained user. “Planets in a room” is a project made by the non-profit association Speak Science to build a low cost version of a small, spherical projector that teachers, museum, planetary scientists and other individuals can easily build and use on their own, to show and teach the planets. This proposal, aimed at bringing planetary science to a larger audience, was funded by the Europlanet Outreach Funding Scheme in 2016.
Speak Science, in collaboration with INAF-IAPS of Rome and the Roma Tre University (Dipartimento di Matematica e Fisica), is already successfully using a system for spherical projection of planetary data, built by 3Des. The system, in use during the European Researchers Night, is shown in the pictures on this page. The next step is to create the low-cost version. Over the first year of the project, a prototype of “Planets in a room” will be developed. In a second phase, the prototype will be distributed throught a dedicated website to the outreach community: schools from all over Europe will be involved and invited to participate to the project using the spherical monitor in their lessons and sharing educational activities and experiences.
“Planets in a room” will be built to be simple, small, and easy to carry. It will be created as a low cost kit that can be easily assembled and self-built. The prototype will also have a simple software interface that can be easily used to display images of the planets and other planetary data with no special training. The kit will be distributed in a dedicated website where visitors will find free building instructions, schemes, data and all the information they need to participate. The production of maps, data and other contents to be used with “Planets in a room” has already started and will involve planetary scientists from all over Europe, asking for their collaboration.