‘Silent’ stargazing is out of this world
Welcome, earthlings! To Guizhou province’s Pingtang county, that is.
Extraterrestrials greet visitors to the Pingtang International Experience Planetarium’s children’s hall. (Well, humans in alien costumes, more precisely.)
Don’t worry. They come in peace.
The 5,000-square-meter planetarium is a place where visitors can don virtual-reality headsets and sit in a space simulator to play an astronaut.
There are displays of somatosensory technology and photoelectric effects, and of the relationship between Earth and our moon. That’s not to mention interactive motion-sensory exhibits.
High-tech, indeed, but mobile devices are banned from the area, which hosts the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical-radio Telescope — the world’s largest.
It’s a chance to drop out of society’s earthly hullaballoo and tune in to the heaven’s sublime silence.
All mobile-communications sta- tions within 5 kilometers of the FAST have been closed since Nov 1. Visitors must deposit their devices in lockers before entering the “core zone”.
Tourism authorities are hailing this as a boon, rather than a bane.
“‘Silent tourism’ is a new concept Guizhou is promoting,” says the Guizhou Tourism Development Committee’s deputy director, Wang Wenxue.
Visitors can escape the hustle and bustle of contemporary life to engage ethnic culture and nature, he says.
“It blends experiences humanity and the heavens.”
The FAST’s general technologist, Wang Qiming, says it’s a successful model of integrating astronomy and tourism with the protection of scientific research.
Non-digital cameras are permitted. And there are landlines in case you really need to give someone a ring.
Otherwise, you can focus on the rings that hula-hoop the gas giants that loop around our sun — without distraction.
Indeed, visiting the area around FAST offers a chance to slow down and look up in silent wonder. of