Your guide to the night sky!
The Saint Louis Science Center's James S. McDonnell Planetarium is one of the nation's leading space education facilities.
- Key Features
- Celebrating 50 Years
It features the unique Boeing Space Station, with two fabulous levels of exhibits that incorporate scientific research, illustrating the future of space travel. The Orthwein StarBay has several lab areas, including the SBC Learning Center, that gives you a glimpse of what it's like to live and work on the International Space Station. In the Crew Quarters see how dwellers eat, exercise, sleep and dress in space, as well as how medical needs and the stations internal and external environments are maintained.
The StarBay's most amazing feature is the central open area dominated by the Zeiss Planetarium Model IX which projects more than 9,000 stars onto an 80-foot dome creating a brilliant star field. Visitors can look up and see what the actual night sky would look like without the interference of weather, pollution or city lights. Special features allow Planetarium staff to demonstrate eclipses, meteor showers and other celestial phenomena. The immensity and clarity of the view creates a sense of wonder and stimulates the imagination.
The StarBridge, located on the highest level, focuses on the navigation and operations essential for life in space. Exhibits demonstrate the roles that communication, astronomical research, power and exploration will play in maintaining a space station.
The Planetarium’s lobby features two real spacecraft which were built right here in St. Louis! A Mercury capsule and a Gemini Capsule. Also on display is a real meteorite you can touch!
To learn more about Planetarium programs choose from the links below.
- Public Telescope Viewings
- Planetarium Shows
- Experience Flight
- Astronomy Fact of the Day
- FA18b Hornet
- Night Sky Update (weekly guide to the night sky over St. Louis)
For more information on astronomy and space exploration, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium
Since the James S. McDonnell Planetarium’s doors opened on April 16, 1963, more than 18.5 million people have experienced a connection with astronomy, space exploration and aviation through a visit to this iconic structure. Though visitors first experienced the Planetarium in April of 1963, city leaders had discussed the possibility of a Planetarium since at least the 1930s. In 1955, St. Louis voters approved $1 million toward the cost of building a planetarium in Forest Park. During construction, James S. McDonnell, the chief executive of McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, made a gift to cover additional costs.
When it opened in 1963, the James S. McDonnell Planetarium was one of only 11 large Planetariums in the United States. The space race was in full swing with President John F. Kennedy making the bold statement in 1962 that the United States would reach the Moon before the end of the decade. One month before the Planetarium opened, astronaut Gordon Cooper made history by becoming the first American to spend more than a day in space. He circled Earth 22 times in a Mercury spacecraft, Faith 7, which was built by workers in St. Louis at McDonnell Aircraft.
On the day the Planetarium opened to the public, crowds lined the path to the entrance of the distinctive hyperboloid structure. Designed by St. Louis architect Gyo Obata, of Helmuth, Obata and Kassebaum, the thin shell concrete structure rests on 12 pillars around the building. Except for the extreme top and bottom of the building, the shell is no more than three and one half inches thick anywhere. The Planetarium was quickly accepted as a local icon, soon gracing the phone book cover, local company reports and other publications.
Over the years, the Planetarium’s exterior and interior have undergone restoration and renovation. It temporarily closed in late 1983 to prepare for a merger with the Museum of Science and Natural History then located in Oak Knoll Park. In July 1985, the renewed facility opened as the Saint Louis Science Center. In early 2000, the Planetarium again closed for a major renovation and reopened to the public in June 2001. From its initial opening in 1963 through its re-openings in 1985 and 2001, the Planetarium continues to be a state-of-the-art facility from which to experience the mystery and vastness of the universe.
The 50th anniversary is an opportunity to look back not only over the Planetarium’s past, but to develop and launch plans for its future as well. Perhaps most importantly, the Planetarium’s 50th anniversary provides an opportunity for the Science Center to thank the St. Louis community for its support over the last half century. Help us commemorate the Planetarium's 50th Anniversary Year by sharing your memories and participating in special 50th Anniversary Year events. Schools can also participate in special 50th Anniversary Year Programs.
We want your story to be part of the Planetarium’s 50th Anniversary celebration!
We are looking for photos, videos or other memorabilia you may have of the Planetarium to include in an anniversary exhibition. We are also interested in your Planetarium stories and memories. If you have a photo or a story to share, send it to us by email. If you have a video, please post it to YouTube and send us a link. Submit your stories and links to email@example.com
“Celestial Showplace”, Monsanto Magazine, Spring 1963
McDonnell Planetarium Fact Sheet, internal document, ca. 1980
O’Neil, Tim; “A look back: Planetarium here beamed its first star show this week in 1963”, April 12, 2009, stltoday.com.
March 22 Planetarium Cheap Date Night: Vernal Equinox
April 5 First Friday: Aliens and Astronauts, Celebrating the Planetarium!
April 13 to 21
Throughout Planetarium Celebration Week, you can enjoy:
- 1963 prices for Planetarium shows (50 cents!)
- Space-themed movies in the OMNIMAX Theater
- Behind-the-scenes Planetarium tours
- A new exhibition, Gateway to the Universe: Celebrating 50 Years of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium
Visitors who attend a Planetarium Show during Planetarium Celebration Week receive a commemorative magnet, while supplies last.
50th Anniversary Blast-off Weekend
Date and Time: Saturday, April 13 and Sunday, April 14; 10 am to 4 pm
Be part of the opening of the new 50th anniversary exhibition and enjoy demonstrations and activities for all ages and levels of interest in astronomy.
Science with the Symphony: Voyager – The Golden Record
Date and Time: Monday, April 15 at 7pm; doors open at 6:30 pm
Admission: Free, but space is limited. Call 314.289.4424 to reserve your seat.
In 1977, NASA launched two Voyager spacecraft into outer space, each containing a gold record with sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. Join the Strings of Arda, a small ensemble of the Saint Louis Symphony, as they perform selections of music featured on these records. The program will also include some of the cultural sounds from the records.
50 Years of Astronomy with Professor Charles Schweighauser
Date and Time: Tuesday, April 16 at 7pm; doors open at 6:30pm
Admission: Free, but space is limited. Call 314.289.4424 to reserve your seat.
Charles Schweighauser, the first director of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium and Professor Emeritus of Astronomy/Physics, University of Illinois at Springfield, will highlight key astronomical discoveries that have taken place during the 50 years since the Planetarium opened in 1963. Professor Schweighauser will describe what we have learned about the electromagnetic spectrum and dark energy, the discovery of nearby extra-Solar system planets, the search for planets with conditions appropriate for life, and the dramatic evolution of astronomical practices.
Date and Time: Saturday, April 20; 10am to 4pm
There will be a Public Telescope Viewing in the evening from 7 to 10pm
Join the Saint Louis Science Center and members of the St. Louis Astronomical Society for fun astronomy activities. Learn about telescopes and how you can begin observing on your own. If the weather permits, we will do Solar observing near the Planetarium entrance during the day. In the evening, we will observe the night sky on Archery Field, adjacent to the Planetarium parking lot.
July 20 To the Moon! Celebrate the anniversary of the moon landing and
launch a rocket!
August 2 First Friday: Update from Mars with Dr. Ray Arvidson
August 10 Planetarium Cheap Date Night: Perseid Meteor Shower
October 12 International Observe the Moon Night
November 4 Science with the Symphony
November 9 Planetarium Cheap Date Night: A Rare Eclipse
December 6 First Friday: Comet Watch Party
The 50th Anniversary of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium is sponsored by