In 1930 in a former water tower the Hamburg Planetarium was inaugurated. Regularly over the past decades new technical innovations were introduced, keeping the viewers amazed and strengthening its leading position between the best planetariums in the world. With the premiere of “Limbradur and The Secrets of Gravity” the first show in 3D now starts a new chapter in the long history of this planetarium.

March 14th is not only Pi-Day but Einstein’s birthday – which other date would fit better to premiere a show (14.03.2017) about gravitation and the theory of relativity?
I have to admit that I was quite skeptical about the 3D-feature, but in the end the show has convinced me that 3D was a perfect addition to the space-experience.

Das Planetarium Hamburg. Außenansicht von Andreas Kreutzer

‘Planetarium Hamburg’. (c) Andreas Kreutzer

“Limbradur and The Secrets of Gravity” is a full animated film addressing a younger audience, what can easily be recognized by the twelve-year-old main character. Overall, the animations have succeeded very well: fluid movements, diversified textures, good facial expressions, matching sound. It is a good mix of photorealistic and comic animations, which are nice to look at and do not distract from the content.

Planetarium Hamburg, LIMBRADUR und die Magie der Schwerkraft, (c) Softmachine Immersive Productions

Planetarium Hamburg, LIMBRADUR and the Secrets of Gravity, (c) Softmachine Immersive Productions

There is no need of advanced knowledge to be able to follow the show; it’s more of a playful approach to Gravity and the Theory of Relativity peppered with examples, proving that this 100-year-old theory is influencing our everyday life.
It is, however, an advantage if you have already heard of Einstein and his ideas, or have picked up some concepts from his theories somewhere, since it gets quite complex on two or three points.


About the content

The first question that comes to my mind when I visit a show at the planetarium is: “Will I see stars and planets?” And the answer is fortunately: Yes!
The story begins and plays in the halls of a museum, but regularly there are excursions into space with stars, planets and the Milky Way – showing Gravity as the cosmic force which is on the smaller scale attracting us to earth and on the bigger scale pulling the stars on their dance floor through the universe.

As noted before the story begins in the Einstein Museum with the young sorcerer Luke, who tries to find out why things fall to the ground when they are not prevented by magic. He meets the robot Alby, who then presents him some well-known examples about Einstein, Gravity and Spacetime.
Just to name a few:
– Newton’s apple
– Cloth pressed by a heavy mass into a funnel and then a smaller mass orbits the bigger one
– The solar eclipse from 1919, which was the first direct proof of Einstein’s theories
– GPS satellites, which would be useless without the Theory of Relativity

But even if most of the examples are well-known to the veterans among the readers, the creators have managed to reinvent them with new pictures perfectly aligned to the large dome to create a good and new experience for everyone. However, if this still sounds too childish for you and you are looking for more scientific depth, you should try out the dark universe.

The trailer will give you a good impression about the show:


3D Star Theater

The Planetarium Hamburg has always been one of the best star theaters in the world, not only because of its long history and beautiful location but also because of its technical equipment. The Starball, the laser system and the sound system were already benchmark, and with the implementation of the “Digistar 6” projectors, 3D-imaging is now getting possible.
The 3D-images are realized with shutter glasses, which alternately release the left or right eye. Due to the high operation-frequency of up to 120 Hz (or 60 Hz per eye) I could not see any flicker. Regarding the shutter glasses, they are of course larger than the well-known ‘polarized glasses’ from the cinema, but with a spherical surface of the dome and the audience sitting arranged in a circle, simple polarization is not possible.

The key question is whether ‘3D’ is a reasonable upgrade or just a nice gimmick.
At the beginning of the show, when the story was still playing inside the museum, the 3D images were nice but without a wow-effect. However, this changed as the flight started through the solar system, passing the rings of Saturn – wow. The huge angle of view of the dome, the high-resolution pictures and the depth through the 3D-effect enabled a stunning space-view.
In my view, the most impressive part was shown during the explanation of Spacetime. A large 3D-grid was spanned over the dome, which then was warped by earth’s gravity. This proved that 3D is not only a way to show nice pictures but a strong and modern tool to visualize scientific content.
To answer the question: Yes, with the right content 3D is a great feature for a star theater.


Planetarium Hamburg, LIMBRADUR and the Magic of Gravity, (c) Softmachine Immersive Productions



A show that presents Einstein, Gravity and Spacetime in an appropriate way for children. It presents well-known examples with fresh pictures and state of the art technical possibilities.
I recommend the show for kids from 10 years and they should be familiar with 3D – e.g. from cinema – as the dome is quite busy. Accordingly, I would not choose this show as a first planetarium-visit for too young children.
Planetarium-veterans will be happy about the 3D-images, which add a whole new dimension to the star theater (sorry for the corny joke ;-)).

A good choice as a family trip and for school classes from the 5th grade, but also suitable to support higher grade’s physics classes.



Further Reading: