Charles Hayden Planetarium Upgrades

Zeiss Star Projector at the Charles Hayden Planetarium
The Zeiss Star Projector at the Charles Hayden Planetarium
(cc) Tracy Lee Carroll

The Museum of Science, Boston will undertake a year long physical and technological renovation of the Charles Hayden Planetarium starting January 4, 2010. The $9 million transformation will include the installation of new and more powerful technologies. Plans include a 57-foot dome, a new interior, surround sound system, and the latest in high-definition immersive video and digital acoustic capabilities. Following renovations, the Museum will offer the most technologically advanced digital theater in New England. The transformation, which is slated for completion in early 2011, is being funded through the Charles Hayden Foundation and private donations, with significant support from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, Suffolk Construction, and the Highland Street Foundation.

The centerpiece of the new Planetarium will be the Zeiss Starmaster, a custom-built optics system that replicates the night sky and re-creates cosmic phenomena such as solar eclipses. Museum staff will use the Zeiss Starmaster along with a full-dome video display system and digital animation technology to create original programming that simulates not only traveling through space, but also swimming through the ocean with sharks or flowing through the human heart with blood cells.

The purchase of this $2 million projector was made possible through the support of the Charles Hayden Foundation. An additional final capstone gift of $1 million brought the Foundation’s contribution to one-third of the total $9 million renovation cost.

“For over fifty years our Planetarium has educated and excited our visitors. Thanks to the generosity of the Charles Hayden Foundation and many other funders, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to provide visitors with an even richer experience,” said Ioannis Miaoulis, president and director of the Museum of Science. “The Planetarium’s new technology will immediately engage Museum-goers. We will take visitors on adventures that delve into discoveries in astronomy, astrophysics, and space exploration, which are shaping what we know about the universe and our planet.”

Spearheaded by the Museum’s founding director Brad Washburn, the Charles Hayden Planetarium opened in 1958. Since then, over 11 million visitors have immersed themselves in the beauty and mystery of the cosmos under the starry dome. The first major planetarium in New England, the theater seats more than 200 people and is home to daily multimedia explanations of astronomical phenomena, stunning displays of planets, stars, and constellations, and simulated journeys to galaxies far beyond their own.

On January 3, 2010, the Planetarium will present its final shows before renovations begin January 4. Throughout the renovations, visitors and members are invited to use their Planetarium passes for admission to the Mugar Omni Theater. During the Planetarium closure, the Museum will offer educational presentations on astronomy.

The Museum of Science, Boston takes a hands-on approach to science, engineering, and technology, attracting about 1.5 million visitors a year via its programs and 700 interactive exhibits. Founded in 1830, the Museum was first to embrace all the sciences under one roof. Highlights include the Thomson Theater of Electricity, Charles Hayden Planetarium, Mugar Omni Theater, Gordon Current Science & Technology Center, 3-D Digital Cinema, and Butterfly Garden. Reaching 25,000 teens a year worldwide via the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network, the Museum also leads a multi-museum, $20 million National Science Foundation-funded nanotechnology education initiative. The Museum’s “Science Is an Activity” exhibit plan has been awarded many NSF grants and influenced science centers worldwide. Its National Center for Technological Literacy aims to enhance knowledge of engineering and technology for people of all ages and inspire the next generation of engineers, inventors, and scientists. The Museum is ranked #3 by Parents Magazine in its list of the country’s Ten Best Science Centers.