Kit 9: Planetarium


Kit #9: Planetarium (2000 yen). Yes, I know, it’s not a 400-seat auditorium with 3D animated fly-bys of the universe. But it’s the next best thing – a little star projector you can put in your living room and stare at when you’re bored. This kind of projector is very straight-forward – a light bulb inside a black plastic box covered with pinholes representing the starfield as seen from the earth. I’m not sure, but I’m assuming that the starfield is accurate, and has about 10,000 stars in it. There’s a calibrated ruler at the base that lets you change the display to match what you’d see in the sky in any given month. The kit also has an on-off switch, and runs on two AAs.

This is yet again one of those kits that has only 20 parts, and still takes forever to build. This time, it’s because of the plastic sheets used for the box. There are four sheets, with pentagonal side panels. You have to fold the tabs and panel creases back and forth 2-3 times each to loosen the plastic up, then you tape the tabs together with double-sided tape. The plastic is stiff and hard to work with, and one tab was so brittle that it actually shattered like glass when I touched it. I didn’t know exactly what the instructions were telling me to do, so I ended up putting half of my tape on the wrong side of the tabs, and I failed to realize that the top plastic sheet was just to protect the starfield from scratches during assembly and is supposed to be removed at the end. Fortunately, there was enough extra tape in the kit to make up for my mistakes. The final result is really cool, and lights up my living room with lots of little dots and splotches (just like as shown on the cover of the mook). I like this kit. The finished product is also fairly large, taking up more shelf space when stored than a number of the other kits do.

Of course, there are the additional customizations that the editors suggest, such as cutting the base off to turn the projector into a ceiling lamp or star globe (to place into a stand like a regular earth globe); and to put paper mache on an umbrella to make a small projection screen for the kit. This last idea is pretty good, since the light dots look very clear on a screen at a distance of 4 feet, but are all fuzzy and diffused when on the wall and ceiling 12 feet away.

The mook discusses various planetariums, shows how the starfield had been created for the kit, and has lots of other unrelated articles about making a radio, a paper airplane and a robot; on collecting bugs; and there’s a profile on a runner who has a prosthetic leg.

Recommended.

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