Planetariums are one of the most amusing inventions of mankind. Also known as museums for stargazing, planetariums are built like a theater with a hemispherical ceiling that exhibits facts about astronomy, space, and science. Usually, the planetariums have a dome structure but there have been innovative architectural designs over the years as well. For countless reasons, visitors attend planetariums, to learn, to be entertained, to spend time with friends and family, to know more about space and beyond. 

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Here lies a list of 15 planetariums of the world, each of them exclusive for their unique features –

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Burke Baker Planetarium_ © https://res.cloudinary.com/

1. Hayden Planetarium in New York

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Hayden Planetarium, American Museum of Natural History_ ©Pinterest

Named as “a cosmic cathedral” by the architects themselves, the Hayden Planetarium is the world’s most visited as well as the most spectacular planetarium. Originally opened in 1935, the planetarium was demolished and rebuilt by the architectural designers James Polshek and Goodhue Livingston. It is located in the middle of Central Park in New York City. A six-story glass cube that encloses the enormous sphere of the planetarium containing 429 seats. The height of its dome is about 11.5 meters.

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2. Nagoya City Science Museum 

The Nagoya City Science Museum, located in the Nagoya city of Japan was opened in November 1962. During the year 2011, the planetarium was documented as the largest planetarium in the world and since then it has a record in the Guinness Book of Records. At present Nagoya’s planetarium is the second largest in the world. 

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Nagoya City Science Museum, Japan_ ©Wikimedia

The planetarium has a dome of diameter 35 meters with concentric seating inside, that allows the audience to observe the stars in a relaxed position in a wide-open space. The 350 reclining seats are rotatable up to 30 degrees on both sides. After major renovations, the planetarium was opened in March 2011 and now exhibits contemporary, planetary, and futuristic technology.

3. Samuel Oschin Planetarium, Los Angeles, California

The Samuel Oschin Planetarium originally known as the Griffith Observatory is a popular landmark in California of the United States. Represents “Art Deco Architecture the planetarium was designed by the architects C. Austin, Frederick M. Ashley.

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Aerial view of Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, California_©  Photographer Carol M.

The impression of a “public observatory” was way ahead of its time in the early 20th century, but the inspirer and sponsor Griffith established very precise specifications about what to include in the building. From the years 1935-2002, it received visitors from around the world with opportunities to observe, learn, and be inspired. 

The observatory was recently retitled as Samuel Oschin Planetarium and reopened in 2006. Since the renovation, it has received increasingly larger audiences. Last year, the Samuel Oschin Planetarium celebrated its 85th anniversary.

4. Carl Zeiss Planetarium in Germany

The Zeiss-Planetarium is one of the oldest operating planetariums in the world opened on July 18, 1926.

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Carl Zeiss Planetarium located in the city Stuttgart of Germany is visited by 200,000 guests annually, and is known as the “the most interactive planetarium in the world”. 

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©Planetarium in Stuttgart

The planetarium has 227 seats. The dome has a diameter of 20 meters with a height of 14 meters. Due to the Zeiss Universarium IX projector, the night sky from the planetarium can be seen the way astronauts see it when they leave the boundaries of the earth’s atmosphere.

5. China Science and Technology Museum

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©www.beijing-kids.com

China Science and Technology Museum is located in the Natural Science Museum in Beijing, in the capital of China. It is the first cosmic theater in the world to use Omnimax laser and projection systems that lets visitors observe stars and planets in real-time high definition. This planetarium has 442 seats, and the dome has a diameter of 30 meters. There is also a 3D theatre in the planetarium where the seats, with the feeling of free fall, can imitate flight through the space 

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6. Adler Planetarium, Chicago, United States

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Adler Planetarium_ ©www.trip.com

The Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum is located in Illinois, Chicago in the United States. Founded in 1930, it is still one of the oldest planetariums in the world. On May 10, 1930, the founder and philanthropist of the planetarium, Max Adler stated:

“The popular conception of the universe is too meager; the planets and the stars are too far removed from general knowledge. In our reflections, we dwell too little upon the concept that the world and all human endeavor within it are governed by established order and too infrequently upon the truth that under the heavens everything is interrelated, even as each of us to the other.”

Adler Planetarium under construction of new roof structure © https://chicago.suntimes.com/

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The Adler Planetarium features educational exhibitions that are always evolving so that the visitors always have something fresh to see whenever they come back. The planetarium also holds summer camps for children. The Adler Planetarium is called “every nerd-at-heart’s paradise”.

7. L’Hemisfèric, Valencia, Spain

L’Hemisfèric is located in “The City of Arts and Sciences” – is a cultural and architectural complex in the city of Valencia, Spain. Inaugurated in 1998, it is known to be the first building of the city that opened its doors to the public. The vast planetarium has an area of 13,000 square meters and a dome in the center of the structure. L’Hemisfèric resembles a giant eye, reflected in the adjacent pool of water.

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L’Hemisfèric_ ©Wikimedia

This spectacular planetarium was designed by the Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava, who was granted the Gold Medal Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 2005.

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8. Albert Einstein Planetarium, Washington D.C

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Albert Einstein Planetarium_© https://airandspace.si.edu/

Opened in 1976, the Albert Einstein Planetarium is one of the top planetariums in the world. It is located on the second floor of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. In 2002, the planetarium remained closed to the public for almost two weeks during major digital renovation and upgrades. Later in 2014, a new ultra-high quality 8K Full Dome Digital System was installed in the planetarium, which is said to be one of the most visually impressive screens in the world.

9. Peter Harrison Planetarium, London, England

The one-of-a-kind, 120-seat digital laser planetarium – Peter Harrison Planetarium is located in Greenwich Park of London. It opened in May 2007 and is part of the National Maritime Museum

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Peter Harrison Planetarium, London_ © Wikimedia

Although the building seems simple, it does have an astronomical research background. The cone-shaped planetarium is questionable to the domes of all other hemispherical planetariums. Regarding this, the architect Paul Appleton explains that domes are not that good for acoustics, and the shape belongs to the 19th-century. According to him, “When you cut a cone, you get a series of shapes – circle, ellipse, parabola, hyperbola – that describe very closely the paths of asteroids, planets and so on. A cone is also a beautiful way to enclose a sphere, or in this case, a hemisphere.” 

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10. Galileo Galilei Planetarium, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Galileo Galilei Planetarium_ ©ArchDaily

Initially intended to resemble a UFO, the Galileo Galilei Planetarium was designed by the Argentine architect Enrique Jan. The dynamic spaces within the building are intertwined with astronomy and architecture, mathematics, and geometry. According to Jan, “This building is one of the few in the world designed and constructed based on the module of an equilateral triangle.”

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Projection Floor Plan ©ArchDaily

Inaugurated in 1966 and remodeled in 2011, this iconic planetarium sits in the Tres de Febrero Park, in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

11. H.R. MacMillan Space Center, Vancouver, Canada

The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre is located at Vanier Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The astronomy museum opened in October 1968, having a Planetarium Star Theatre. At the moment the museum includes an exhibit gallery and demonstration theatre for hosting public lectures and events

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HR Macmillan Space Centre_ © www.viator.com

The building was designed by architect Gerald Hamilton and stands out as a striking example of expressive Modernist design. The design of the building exhibits the feasible influence of Frank Lloyd Wright as well as reflects a curious interest in space exploration during the 1960s.

12. M. P. Birla Planetarium

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Birla Planetarium,1966_ © ResearchGate

The M. P. Birla Planetarium, located in Central Kolkata, is the largest planetarium in Asia and the second largest planetarium in the world. Commonly recognized as “Tara Mandal”, the planetarium was inaugurated on 2 July 1963 firstly and then reopened on 18 July 2017, after 28 months of renovation. The Birla Planetarium is an iconic structure in West Bengal with an architectural representation based on the famous Buddhist Stupa at Sanchi.

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Birla Planetarium_© https://www.mpbirlaplanetarium.org/

13. Burke Baker Planetarium

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Burke Baker Planetarium_© https://www.chron.com/

Opened in 1964, the Burke Baker Planetarium was the first building to occupy the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s site. The planetarium has organized many astronomical programs for millions of visitors starting from school students to the general public. Their Digistar 6 advanced simulator delivers an exhilarating experience to the audience. Interestingly, their innovative facility is also used by NASA to train its astronauts. The Burke Baker Planetarium has access to a global cloud library of content and shows to present.

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Burke Baker Planetarium_© https://www.hmns.org/

14. Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium

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The Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium_© BBC

The first planetarium in the world, The Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium located in Franeker, Netherlands is the oldest working planetarium still in its original condition. During 1774-1781 a local wool-comber named Eise Eisinga built the planetarium in his own home. 

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Eisinga’s solar system_ © Mike Maceacheran

The orrery is a planetarium with a working model of the solar system, where the ceiling is painted with royal blue glimmer and outlined in shiny gold paint. It has been on the top 100 Dutch heritage sites list since 1990 and has been placed on a provisional list of forthcoming UNESCO World Heritage sites in December 2011. The maintenance of the planetarium is done according to Eisinga’s instructions.

15. The Shanghai Planetarium 

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Architect’s impression of the Shanghai Planetarium_ © https://www.universetoday.com/

With an area of approximately 58,600 square meters, the Shanghai Planetarium and Astronomy Museum is currently the world’s largest planetarium in terms of building scale. It officially opened on Saturday. Previously the project was an international competition-winning design, which turned to reality this July 2021, after the official inauguration. From an aerial view, the main building of the museum resembles a super bowl of astronomical instruments with a circular skylight, an inverted spherical dome, and a dome theater.

The architectural designers of this massive planetarium, Ennead Architects say: “Drawing inspiration from astronomical principles, our design strategy provides a platform for the experience of orbital motion, and utilizes that as a metaphorical reference and generator of form.” 

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Instruments Diagram_© Thomas Wung / Ennead Architects
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© Thomas Wung / Ennead Architects

Learn more about this new planetarium at: https://www.ennead.com/work/shanghai-astronomy-museum\

There is no better place to learn about the mysteries of space and what it is like above earth than at a planetarium. These astronomical theaters are just not buildings, they hold whole galaxies, enabling us to walk upon the moon and search the galaxies. They take us out of light-polluted cities on adventures on the edge of the universe through space to learn about black holes, meteors, and much more.

References:

ETEM GROUP. (2018, June 19). THE 5 MOST IMPRESSIVE PLANETARIUMS IN THE WORLD. https://www.etem.com/blog/the-5-most-impressive-planetariums-in-the-world [Accessed: 08/09/2021].

Stone, E. (2021, January 7). The 8 Best Planetariums in the World. Little Astronomy. https://littleastronomy.com/best-planetariums/ [Accessed: 09/09/2021].

Author

A final year student currently pursuing B.Arch. in Bangladesh. Her passions are intertwined with Art, Travel, Architecture, and Literature. She aspires to travel, learn, evolve with time and thereby bring something to light through journaling her journeys.

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