Yes, I’m a science geek. I love learning the broad strokes of how things work and the future possibilities of what’s just on the scientific horizon. Of course, I’m not interested in all forms of science. Any dicipline that involves a lot of math in order to get just a basic grasp doesn’t work with me, which explains my performance in high school chemestry.
But astronomy…who hasn’t ever looked up at the stars and wondered? I guess in a sense I was lucky enough to grow up near Los Angeles. At least once a year there was a school field trip to the Griffith Observatory and a 60 minute drive east put you in the desert where there was no ambient light so all stars were visible. Even falling stars were commonplace. The universe is and will forever be both a mysterious and beautiful place.
And I’m so happy that my kids find it just as wonderful.
And that Taipei has such a cool museum dedicated to the stars.
A Little History. Just a Little. I Promise.
It started in 1938 when a local Taiwanese newspaper donated a worn down and unused telescope and observatory dome to the city of Taipei. Once restored, they were handed over to the Taipei Municipal Administration, who prompty named it Chung Shan Hall. Because Chung Shan Hall was located in a central area of Taipei city (near the mayor’s office), it wasn’t a very suitible for star-gazing. It was decided to move the observatory to the more remote (at the time) Yuanshan Scenic Area.
The now-relocated observatory re-opened in its new Yuanshan location in 1968. 15 years later in 1978, the observatory was expanded and given more scientific equipment. When the expansion finished in 1980, the observatory had attained “planetarium” status. Soon after it was decided that a whole new astronomical center and observatory was needed as Taipei’s growing population was starting to crowd out the old one. Construction began on the Taipei Astronomical Museum in 1993. In 1997, the Astronomical Museum, now on Chi Ho Road in Shilin, was opened to the public.
Remember that whole thing about me not liking math? Before you say anything, I am fully aware that astronomy contains a lot of mathematics and, in fact, one of the ultimate goals of astrophysics is to be able to represent our universe from birth until death as a formula so that the position of all the bodies of the universe can be predecited at any point in time, past or present.
But you’re not going to be sucessful in building (or keeping) interest if that’s how you present the subject. Thankfully, the museum is designed for the geek enthusiast and childhood wonder demographics, like my sons and I. There is color everywhere, hands-on practical examples of some of the basic principles such as gravity and electromagnetism (I don’t think it’s possible to create a children’s hands-on practical demonstration of the strong and weak nuclear forces ), and even a ride on the 4th floor that take you through the solar system and also gives you an outside view of our galaxy. In addition, all of the displays, pamphlets, and even the ride are in English alongside the traditional Chinese characters used locally. Everything is presented in an interesting and fun manner, the way it should be.
Here are some of the cool things that you can do at the Taipei Astronomical Museum:
- An IMAX theater equipped with the Zeiss planetarium system, projecting almost 9000 stars.
- A 3D theater utilizing the 70mm Iwekrs 3D projection system.
- The “Cosmic Adventure” dark ride.
- A rooftop observatory with 20cm telescope open to the public.
Plus, it’s located right next to a large park and right across the street from the Science Center.
How to Get There
The Taipei Astronomical Museum is very easy to get to via public transportation. Simply hop on the Dansui MRT line and take it to Shilin station. It’s about a 10 minute walk from there. Taking a taxi from most places in Taipei will run you NT$200-250. The museum is located at No.363, Jihe Rd., Shilin Dist., Taipei City 111 and is open all days except Mondays.