Santa Day offers immersive planetarium experience

By Daisy Silos | DFW Newsflash | January 2018

Trading in his sleigh for an SUV, Santa Claus rolled into the Frontiers of Flight Museum in style during the annual Santa Day celebration on Sunday, Dec. 17.

Families were treated to a space themed holiday celebration that included snacks, arts and crafts, and of course, pictures with Santa Claus in front of the Frontier Flyer aircraft.

“Santa Day is our way to invite our community out to celebrate the holidays with everybody,” Cheyanne Suffka, public program manager for Frontiers of Flight Museum, said. “Every year is different, and we put our own spin on classic holiday activities.”

This is the second time Amy Cleveland and her family attend Santa Day at the museum. Cleveland and her daughter Macy enjoyed Santa Day last year so much, they bought memberships to the museum.

“It’s exciting to see Santa in a different environment besides the mall,” Cleveland said. “He flew in last year and came in a Cadillac this year. It’s just something different and we love the museum.”

Some of the activities this year featured making a space snow globe, where children learned about the solar system. Youngsters could also create a reindeer flyer while exploring aerodynamics in a fun and crafty way.

“One of the things I like about this event is they have different activities and things to do than last year,” Cleveland said. “Last year, they made a sun ornament.”

One of the main attractions at the museum was the 30 minute planetary show on the Space Portal Odyssey Capsule (S.P.O.C.).

“The show is a custom show just for Santa Day,” Suffka said. “We won’t be showing it any other time. It relates to the theme and event.”

Audiences sat inside S.P.O.C. and traveled to where Santa lives and beyond.

“For Santa Day, we looked at the North Pole, but not just Earth’s North Pole, we actually went around the solar system looking at the poles of different planets as well,” S.P.O.C. educator Ian Grey said. “Being in a planetarium, we can actually speed up time. We can show how the systems change and evolve over time and visualize the universe in a way you can’t really do in any other format.”

The show began exploring Earth’s North Pole in real time, and then traveled years ahead to reach the North Poles of different planets such as Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus.

“For this program we decided on going to Mars and seeing its North Pole to see the carbon dioxide poles ice sheets. We also looked at Jupiter and Saturn, and we’ve been ending the shows looking at Uranus and how it’s tilted on its side, so its pole is facing the sun half the year,” Grey said. “A planetarium is unlike any other when it comes to experiencing astronomy. You can learn and visualize the content in other methods, but the planetarium offers an immersive environment where you can actually see how things interact. I am glad we could incorporate the planetarium into this special event, because this is something not generally available to the public in Dallas anymore. This is one of the few public planetariums available, and we try to have it for special events like this.”