Today’s solar eclipse has many of us in North America focused on science, space, and nature. If you are one of those star stuck after the big event, that’s great news! There are many places around the country to explore yourself, or take your family of budding astronomers to keep everyone engaged with space. Many of these places have incredible shows with the newest technology. It’s not your mama’s telescope anymore!
Some of my favorite planetariums and why you should visit them:
- Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles
The Samuel Oschin Planetarium at the Griffith Observatory (In my hometown Los Angeles) It got is “close up” in this year’s Academy Award winning La La Land, and the Griffith Observatory is a classic landmark overlooking an fantastic view of the City of Angels. The regular exhibits are a little advanced for the younger kids, but the movie inside the planetarium theater is interesting and can hold the attention of most kids.
My favorite thing about this observatory is the once a month public star gazing party outdoors. Knowledgable astronomers are on hand to help look through telescopes, and it is an engaging experience. http://griffithobservatory.org/
2) Hayden Planetarium New York :
One would expect New York City, with all its museums and resources, to offer a top notch experience in astronomy. The Hayden Planetarium doesn’t disappoint, and it’s located in the equally as interesting Museum of Natural History. What makes the Hayden special is the digital universe atlas it has developed, mapping our world in 3D!! This can be seen in the 429-seat Space Theater. The Museum’s Space Shows are also displayed here. In addition – Check out the incredible programs and speakers scheduled it you visit New York! In addition to the star shows, the planetarium has live sky talks once a month, as well as lectures by prominent authors and astrophysicists. (BTW if you are a fan of the show “Cosmos,” the accomplished director of the planetarium is the host of the show!) http://www.amnh.org/our-research/hayden-planetarium
3) Burke Baker Planetarium in Houston, TX
Houston, we have a planetarium. If your travels take you to this Texas city , the Museum of Natural Science and its Burke Baker Planetarium should be the first stop in your space museum exploration. It is an exciting place to visit as it is home to a dome theater that is actually used to train NASA astronauts in star field identification. The planetarium offers a large number of special shows.
(And while you are in Houston, take advantage of all the space edutainment offerings and visit NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center too!) http://www.hmns.org/planetarium/
4) Gates Planetarium in Denver, CO :
At the Gates Planetarium at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, visitors get a closer look at one of the most mysterious astronomical phenomenon, black holes. For the younger set, the museum’s One World, One Sky show takes you on a journey with Big Bird and Elmo to the moon and back in an educational yet entertaining journey. http://www.dmns.org/planetarium/
5) Morrison Planetarium, San Francisco, CA:
Not surprisingly, the Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Arts and Sciences, near the center of the tech world , has the largest all-digital planetarium in the world. The programing lineup includes traditional star shows, live tours of the universe, live NASA feeds and broadcasts from researchers reporting from the field. The CA Academy of Arts and Sciences was remodeled about 8 years ago, and is considered a cultural gem – so overall a lot to see at this one destination. http://www.calacademy.org/exhibits/morrison-planetarium
6) The Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Il – This is reportedly the first planetarium built in the United States..and certainly one of the most entertaining. There are so many programs here, you are sure to find something interesting when you visit Chicago. At Doane at Dusk, guests will enjoy nighttime telescope viewings and related discussions with Adler Astronomers after museum hours. And if you are looking for a unique date night, Adler at Dark is for ages 21 and above and is a different space-related experience once a month… Or how ’bout a truly spiritual yoga class on Satrudays in the planetarium while star gazing? Keeping up with the times, there is a special exhibition about Eclipse Chasing at the planetarium right now. http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/#h2AhH0tYMpSyIR7r.97
7) You don’t have to visit a planetarium to engage with the universe – when traveling takes you to remote areas far from big cities, where the night sky is more clear, that is an excellent time to break out the various apps that help you star gaze and identify celestial bodies. Some recommended apps:
Night Sky 4 (IOS) ..Night Sky Lite (Android)…Star Map…Star Walk 2.
And lastly… wherever your travels may take you – Here’s a complete list of planetariums around the country: http://www.go-astronomy.com/planetariums.htm