New high-tech digital dome catapults the Joburg Planetarium into the future



Wits University and Anglo American have partnered to transform the iconic dome of the 62-year-old Joburg Planetarium into a new, forward-thinking, multidisciplinary center for research, education and science events.

The new high-tech research facility aims to help students solve some of society’s most pressing challenges and contribute to the continuous renewal of Johannesburg as a smart city.

big data

Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice-Chancellor of Wits University and Fellow of the Royal Society (UK), said data is becoming increasingly complex and multi-dimensional for many researchers in different fields.

“A hub like the new Wits Anglo American Digital Dome will aim for a more intuitive and immersive understanding of big data, allowing students, researchers and the public to visualize data in real time.”

Better experience

Professor Roger Deane, director of the Wits Center for Astrophysics and the SKA Chair in Radio Astronomy at Wits, said they create a better experience for those who love astronomy.

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“A facility like the new Wits Anglo American Digital Dome is an opportunity to refine a more intuitive and comprehensive understanding of big data, where we will be able to visualize our work, be it in anatomy classes for first year medical students, visualization the countless particle showers in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, exploring the first galaxies in the universe or testing new games developed by Wits’ gaming design students.”

support education

Duncan Wanblad, Managing Director of Anglo-Americansaid supporting equal access to education has been a priority for the company.

“As one of the leading universities in Africa understanding continues to play a vital role in providing access to education, not only for its students but also for the wider South African public.”

“The new Wits Anglo American Digital Dome will be a truly world-class and accessible center that will inspire generations to take an active interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and the digital arts,” said Wanblad.

costs and stages

Together, Wits and Anglo American have provided R75 million to fund the first two phases of the three-stage project, with Wits University Council providing R20 million and Anglo American providing R55 million.

The project will support the urban renewal of the city of Johannesburg by preserving the building that will house the Digital Dome – the iconic green roof seen daily by thousands of motorists along Johannesburg’s main highway, the M1 South.

First stage

In the first phase, the existing planetarium will be refurbished and digitized with a new, state-of-the-art digital projection system, auditorium seating and a Science and Technology Exploratorium.

Second floor

The second phase will see an expansion of the north wing to house a new set of operations offices, an exhibition area, as well as a seminar room and meeting room for the planning and design of the Digital Dome show.

Third section

In the third and final phase, pending funding, a new research-focused building in the east wing will house open plan offices for visiting multidisciplinary research teams to collaborate with in-house data visualization and digital dome show rendering experts.

It will include a creative studio, film and audio production facilities to allow Wits to develop much of its digital content for its on-site scientific engagements.

This stage will be integrated into Wits Football Stadium and will include a media observation deck and rooftop event space.

opening

Stage 1 and 2 of the Wits Anglo American Digital Dome will be completed in 2023 and open to the public in 2024.

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