Hayden Planetarium reopens at limited capacity

Do you have any pent-up curiosities?" astrophysicist and Museum of Natural History Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson asked -- more to the ether or a planet of peoples forced to spend most of the last year trapped indoors plowing through streaming television than to his interviewer -- on the same day as the reopening of the planetarium's space theater.

"We could spend a month here and just scratch the surface," a visitor named Andy said.

Neither Andy nor his son Eli, Ellis nor his mom Asia, Eddie nor his daughter Olive knew the planetarium was reopening Wednesday when they signed up to visit the museum.

"We're on spring break so we thought it would be a nice thing to do to spend the day," Asia said.

"We've been just kind of cooped up around our apartment," Eddie said.

"We were lucky we got here this day instead of yesterday," Eli said.

"A year delayed," deGrasse Tyson agreed.

The astrophysicist described the planetarium and its Worlds Beyond Earth space show as an attempt to familiarize people with their own backyard.

"And the backyard to an astrophysicist is our solar system," deGrasse Tyson said.

Get breaking news alerts in the FOX 5 NY News app. Download for FREE!

The museum describes that solar system as full of "worlds" instead of just full of "planets."

"['Planets'] doesn't stimulate your imagination the way the word 'world' does," deGrasse Tyson said.

While the word choice perhaps draws us emotionally closer to these large masses of space rocks and gases, the show presents its capacity-limited audiences images of our solar system based off of a data set gleaned over the last two decades of space missions and major observatory projects.

"These are not artists' representations of an imagined reality," deGrasse Tyson said.

"It teaches us about what's outside of our small world," Eli said.

While the rest of the museum opened in September ("the dinosaurs," Olive said), the return of the planetarium, deGrasse Tyson hopes, brings the museum back to its full strength in stimulating visitor curiosities perhaps driven dormant by the last year of pandemic fears, lockdowns and solitude.

"And when you add curiosity plus wonder," deGrasse Tyson said, "I say those are the twin engines of exploration and discovery. And that's how we roll here."