Planetarium 60 Planetarium 60

Slider Title: 
Go Back in Time

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Learn how our Planetarium came to be and how it became a hub of educational and technological innovation.

  • THE 1940s
  • November 18, 1948

    A Traveling Planetarium with an 18-foot dome is constructed, featuring a Spitz Star Projector. It seats 50 to 60 people, weighs 500 lbs., and fits into a truck to drive from the Museum to various sites around New England. 148 shows are presented through May 1949 for more than 6,000 visitors.

  • THE 1950s
  • 1950

    The Charles Hayden Foundation, already a sponsor of the Museum’s courses and summer programs, gives $250,000 toward the creation of the new Planetarium. The Hayden Foundation continues to provide vital assistance in funding the Planetarium through every decade of its history.

  • February 9, 1950

    When Science Park has a space ready, the Traveling Planetarium is installed as “the Little Planetarium” with a new Peerless Projector. 609 shows are presented through February 1951 for almost 30,000 attendees.

  • March 11, 1951

    The Little Planetarium is installed in the newly-constructed East Building, where it draws 113,000 visitors through June 1953. On June 26, the Little Planetarium is closed and subsequently sold to Natick High School (which keeps it in use until 2016).

  • March 1952

    Construction on the new Planetarium building begins.

    Construction begins on the Charles Hayden Planetarium.
  • 1952

    To match contributions from the Hayden Foundation, the Museum begins “The Sky’s for Sale” fundraising campaign, offering stars, planets, and other celestial properties for sale to patrons. Prices range from $1 for a single star to $2,500 for the “Big Dipper” to $10,000 for the Sun

  • March 1955

    To raise funds for construction of the new Planetarium, naming rights to seats are sold for $100 per chair.

  • October 20, 1958

    Opening day of the new Charles Hayden Planetarium with its 60-foot dome. From opening day through the following May, more than 100,000 visitors attend shows. The new Planetarium has 314 seats and features a custom Korkosz projector built by local engineers John and Frank Korkosz.

    Construction begins on the Charles Hayden Planetarium.
  • 1959

    Early shows include Target: Moon (January – May) and Vacation Skies Around the World (July –September).

  • THE 1960s
  • February 1960

    One-day attendance record in the Planetarium of 1,430 people.

    Front of the Man on the Moon postcard.

    Back of the Man on the Moon postcard.
  • 1961

    Astronomy courses such as Fun with Stars, Introducing the Heavens, Junior Astronomy Workshop, and Astronomy for Teachers are offered.

  • 1962

    “Sky Map,” a monthly publication is printed in 20 different newspapers.

  • April 1962

    Monthly attendance is over 21,000 at Planetarium shows.

    Children looking up at the custom Charles Hayden Planetarium Korkosz projector.
  • February 18, 1963

    One-day attendance record of 1,778 visitors, who attended seven showings of Beyond the Moon.

  • 1963

    Special programs include a re-enactment of a solar eclipse, a television program, and a free Christmas show.

    The Sun in Action eclipse postcard.
  • October 2, 1964

    Today is the millionth visitor to the Planetarium.

  • 1965

    Shows this year include Fourth from the Sun (January – April) and The Inhabited Universe (October – November).

  • November 1967

    The Planetarium reopens after a two-month shutdown for renovations.

  • THE 1970s
  • September 6, 1970

    Last show with the Korkosz star projector, after 13,102 performances for over 2 million visitors.

  • 1970

    The Planetarium is closed for 13 weeks to install the new projector and new seating, funded by the Charles Hayden Foundation.

  • December 7, 1970

    Planetarium reopens with its new Zeiss Model VI projector.

  • Fall 1971

    The Planetarium produces a number of programs specifically for school groups including On Other Worlds (grades 3 – 4) and How High the Moon? (grades 7 – 9).

    Front page of the Fall 1971 Star Map.

    Back page of the Fall 1971 Star Map.
  • 1973

    The Planetarium organizes eclipse-viewing trips to Nova Scotia and Kenya.

  • 1974

    The painted skyline from the Planetarium is sold at the Museum Garage Sale to a restaurant in Cambridge.

  • 1975

    “The Star Spangled Sky” is introduced as the Museum’s first bicentennial activity. It is the most complicated and effects-heavy program offered so far by the Planetarium.

  • 1975

    Cosmic Resonance features the Central Maine Power Music Company performing live music with accompanying lights and effects. It is the Planetarium’s first non-astronomical public show.

  • THE 1980s
  • 1980

    Presentations include Celestial Navigation and Ghosts of Superstar.

    School children gazing up at the planetarium ceiling.
  • 1981

    The Planetarium undergoes extensive renovations and a new projector system is put in place. The first public show to use this system is Starbound.

  • 1983

    The Museum celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Planetarium (held on October 13). A 3rd projector is installed to enhance animations and effects.

  • 1984

    The Voyage of IMA is the first light show produced by Planetarium staff. Another new show, Death Stars and Dinosaurs is so popular that it is brought back several times over the next five years.

  • 1987

    The Laser shows Moonrock and Rainbow Credenza are shown, with content produced by Laserium.

  • October 1988

    It’s “Celebrate the Universe” month in honor of the Planetarium’s 30th anniversary. Events include special showings of “The Sixty-Foot Universe,” a behind-the-scenes look at the Planetarium.

  • THE 1990s
  • 1991

    Planetarium staff lead trips to Hawaii and Cabo San Lucas to view an eclipse.

  • 1994

    The WSKY: Radio Station of the Stars program is developed into traveling kits for schools.

  • 1995

    The Planetarium closes for renovations January through April, reopening April 16, 1995. The venue debuts new video projectors and a unique captioning system for the hearing-impaired.

  • 1998

    Shows this year include The Life and Death of the Sun (April – October). Staff lead a trip to Aruba to view an eclipse.

  • July 7, 1999

    Astronaut Gene Cernan visits the Planetarium. Cernan was the last man to walk on the Moon, part of Apollo 17 in 1972.

  • THE 2000s
  • August 27, 2003

    “Mars Night at the Museum” draws thousands of visitors for special showings and demonstrations.

    Charles Hayden Planetarium Sky Chart and viewing guide for December 2007.
  • 2005-2006

    A new show, Far, Far Away: The Worlds of Star Wars opens in conjunction with the Museum’s Star Wars®: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibition.

  • April 2008

    Astronaut Alan Bean visits the Planetarium. Bean was the fourth person to walk on the Moon.

  • THE 2010s
  • 2010

    Long closure for renovations and installation of a new Zeiss Starmaster projector, which begins running in December 2010. Major upgrades and repairs to the Planetarium are funded by the Charles Hayden Foundation.

  • 2011

    The Planetarium’s official reopening is February 9, 2011. Undiscovered Worlds: The Search Beyond Our Sun is the first show to open after the 2010 renovations. In addition to technical upgrades, the entire space and seating are renovated, with 209 new chairs and a 57-foot dome.

    Visitors watching the Night Sky Show in the planetarium.
  • 2016

    The development of the SubSpace series begins, with Planetarium staff creating original shows featuring iconic artists such as Bjork, Prince, and Beyonce.

  • 2017

    Adult programming in the Planetarium expands to include new partnerships with local musicians, comedians, and performers to provide innovative content under the dome.

  • 2018

    The Charles Hayden Planetarium celebrates 60 years under the stars!