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First 'Open 3D' Planetarium in the world opens in Montsec, western Catalonia

In 2013, the UNESCO-supported Starlight Foundation granted Montsec Observatory, located in the Catalan Province of Lleida, its own Tourism certification, for having "one of the clearest skies in the world". On 14 March, Montsec's Centre for the Observation of the Universe (COU) reopened its doors for its seventh season. This year its multimedia facility - the Eye of Montsec – has been converted into the first 'Open 3D' planetarium in the world. With a capacity of around 70 people, it is now equipped with highly advanced audiovisual equipment, recreating total-immersion virtual environments. Moreover, thanks to its retractable dome and front wall, viewers can enjoy an uninterrupted view of the sky.

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19 March 2015 10:19 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- In 2013, the UNESCO-supported Starlight Foundation granted Montsec Observatory, located in the Catalan Province of Lleida, its own Tourism certification, for having "one of the clearest skies in the world". On 14 March, Montsec's Centre for the Observation of the Universe (COU) reopened its doors for its seventh season. This year its multimedia facility - the Eye of Montsec – has been converted into the first 'Open 3D' planetarium in the world. With a capacity of around 70 people, it is now equipped with highly advanced audiovisual equipment, recreating total-immersion virtual environments. Moreover, thanks to its retractable dome and front wall, viewers can enjoy an uninterrupted view of the sky.  Starting from next June, the Centre will be also equipped with a new telescope, currently under construction.


The Montsec-based COU opened its doors for the first time six years ago. So far, it has hosted 150,000 visitors. It is composed of a multimedia facility (the Eye of Montsec), an outdoor section for observation of the sky (the Telescope Park) and a central building (where – among other things - a permanent exhibition is located). The Centre is part of the Parc Astronòmic Montsec (PAM), an initiative of the Catalan Government aimed at taking advantage of the area's potential for developing scientific research and outreach activities in the field of astronomy.

Thanks to this year's technological conversion, the Eye of Montsec now becomes the first 'Open 3D' planetarium in the world. The newly-installed 3D system consists of seven audiovisual projectors in addition to ten computers and various auxiliary machines, making it possible to see 14.5 million pixel images in the dome. The designing and installation of the new system were carried out by SkySkan Europe, for a total cost of €486,000 plus VAT. From now on, visitors - equipped with special glasses - will enjoy a stereoscopic vision combining 3D immersion with the effect of the spherical dome planetarium. This season will feature 3D movies appealing to all age-groups, such as 'Polaris 3D' - the first 3D astronomy movie for kids - and 'To Space and Back', a 3D movie on space exploration technology's impact on daily life.

Currently, there are around 20 planetariums in the world with 3D technology. The Warsaw-based 'Heavens of Copernicus' was the first one to introduce it in Europe. However, with regard to Spain and Catalonia, the first was CosmoCaixa in Barcelona.

While these forerunners adopted "Passive 3D systems", the Eye of Montsec is equipped with next generation technology – that is, "Active 3D". Groningen-based Infoversum was the first planetarium in the world to adopt this more advanced system.

From June on, the Telescope Park will be provided with a new telescope

Starting from June, the Telescope Park will be provided with a new 50 cm telescope, fully computer-controlled, which will become the largest of the Centre. Currently still under construction, its total cost stands at around €188,000 plus VAT. It will be located in a room where groups of up to 70 people will be able to undertake observation of the sky while remaining comfortably seated. This seventh season will also feature the new edition of two collateral events: "the Festival of Astronomy" and "Music under the stars".

COU to become an educational benchmark for astronomy and geology

The Parc Astronòmic Montsec (PAM) is located in the Montsec mountain range straddling the counties of La Noguera and Pallars Jussà in the Catalan Province of Lleida, in western Catalonia. The PAM is made up of two main facilities: the Centre d’Observació de l’Univers (COU) and the Observatori Astronòmic del Montsec (OAdM).

The Centre d’Observació de l’Univers is located in the municipality of Àger (La Noguera) while the Observatori Astronòmic del Montsec is located in the municipality of Sant Esteve de la Sarga (Pallars Jussà), near the town of Balaguer.

The Centre d’Observació de l’Univers is a large, multi-purpose facility which is intended to become an educational benchmark for teaching astronomy and geology in Catalonia. The COU acts as a link between the general public and scientific knowledge, giving visitors an insight into the exciting world of science and allowing them to discover the surroundings of Montsec.

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  • The new 3D projection system set up in Montsec Universe Observation Centre (by O. Bosch)

  • The new 3D projection system set up in Montsec Universe Observation Centre (by O. Bosch)
First 'Open 3D' Planetarium in the world opens in Montsec, western Catalonia