Whipple Observatory and TSO Team Up for Holst’s Planets

by Tucson Symphony
Whipple Observatory and TSO Team Up for Holst’s Planets

With clear skies devoid of light pollution and multiple world-renowned observatories throughout the region, it’s easy to see why Southern Arizona is widely considered one of the astronomy capitals of the world. This puts the TSO in the enviable spot of being able to partner with the Whipple Observatory for the April production of Holst’s Planets.

Located on Mt. Hopkins near Amado, Arizona, the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory is the largest satellite facility of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, part of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian. The Observatory has telescopes at three separate elevations on Mt. Hopkins.

  • The Visitor Center – (4,230ft) and the VERITAS (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) array of four 12-m reflectors for gamma-ray astronomy in the 50GeV-50TeV energy range is located at the base of the mountain.
  • The Ridge – (7800ft) located mid-way up the mountain “The Ridge” is the location of a multitude of galactic and extragalactic astronomy telescopes looking for exoplanets and other solar systems.
  • The Summit – (8585ft) is home to the massive MMT Observatory and has a primary mirror 6.5 meters (21 feet) which was the first mirror of its size cast at the University of Arizona Mirror Lab. MMT is jointly operated by the Smithsonian and the University of Arizona. The telescope is used to study objects across the field of astronomy, from the Solar System to distant galaxies. The MMT has provided a testbed for new telescope technologies developed by scientists and engineers at the Center for Astrophysics and the University of Arizona.

On April 12 and 14 the TSO and Whipple are teaming up to bring the audience a rich astronomical experience that starts in the lobby and finishes on the stage for Holst’s Planets, the final Classic Series concert of the season. Whipple staff and volunteers will have telescopes on the patio (solar filters for Sunday) and will also have information about the planets to give away. They will also have the Sounds of the Universe Sonification Symphony playing in the lobby and will be giving away the sheet music from the symphony.

Amy Oliver, Whipple’s public affairs officer, is leading the Observatory portion of the partnership. “Whipple Observatory is thrilled to partner with TSO to bring music together with the astronomical wonders that have inspired so many composers and artists around the world. The Universe and all its wonders are a symphony unto themselves, and there’s no better way to hear, or see, that song than to pair our observations of the night sky with the amazing talent at TSO as they present Holst’s Planets.”

Each movement of The Planets represents one of the seven known planets of the Milky Way viewable from Earth (Pluto was discovered a full decade after the premiere) and their corresponding astrological personalities. Gustav Holst was more fascinated with astrology than astronomy but that didn’t stop The Planets from being ingrained in the history of Astronomy and Sci-Fi films and television.

Lobby activities for The Planets begin at 6:00 pm on Friday, April 12, and 12:30 pm on Sunday, April 14.

Whipple Observatory is currently undergoing renovations and is closed to the public.