St. Eustatius opens its first Planetarium

The Plantation Planetarium on Statia


ORANJESTAD, Sint Eustatius — St. Eustatius will officially open its first Planetarium. A brainchild of Ishmael Berkel and Jaap Vreeling, the Planetarium houses a theatre audience of 25 people. They will gaze onto the ceiling where the fascinating aspects and history of the night sky will be realistically projected and explained. 

Situated on the grounds of the Berkel Family Plantation, the structure is surrounded by telescopes. “Our one hour evening shows will reveal the astronomical wonder and beauty of planets and space,” says Vreeling who has spent 40 years promoting astronomy in the Netherlands and worldwide.”

Inspired by the scale and scope of the planets, comets and the drama of outer space, the public will then be invited to use our telescopes. The sky above the Plantation is usually crystal clear without any light pollution. Viewers will discover for example, the rings of Saturn, the craters on the moon or even peer into the clouds of Jupiter.”

Ismael Berkel is delighted with the new attraction. “My interest in astronomy was sparked by the Pathfinder movement that focuses on astronomy as one of its areas of interest and adventure. When Jaap and I heard of a mobile Planetarium that was placed on the market by the Maritime Museum of Barcelona, our imaginations were fired.”

School children and adults of all ages will be thrilled by the shows that are planned,” Berkel insists. “We will be able to recreate countless moments and images of the past and answer even the most difficult questions. Jaap Vreeling is a great teacher and we can all learn a great deal from him.” 

In the time of Covid, Ishmael Berkel (left) gives Jaap Vreeling an elbow bump to congratulate each other on their Plantation Planetarium

Vreeling is confident that the Planetarium will serve as an important educational tool to reveal local Caribbean history and culture. “The medium allows us to show how the Carib Indians used the stars and planets to navigate from one island to the next. We can even pinpoint how the skies above Statia appeared during the First Salute or the arrival of Admiral Rodney’s invasion fleet. The possibilities are endless.”

We hope to keep the shows up to date. We will for example be able to show an animation of the the New Rover that landed last week on Mars. And we can magnify the red planet on the dome ceiling to show its fascinating features.” 

The general public will have an opportunity to visit the Planetarium this week for free. Three one-hour shows have been planned every morning from 9 to 12 am on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.