The Kaleideum Planetarium is open! As we move through Phase 3 in North Carolina, movie theaters that are a part of museums are allowed to open at 30% capacity. Join us Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for our classic Planetarium shows.
Enjoy the night sky (even during the day), attend a laser show, or watch one of our educational programs. Great for all ages! The Kaleideum Planetarium is a multi-media theater. Inside the 50-foot dome, visitors experience a realistic simulation of the night sky as observed from any place on Earth. Stars, NASA images and videos, special effects and lighting are combined to enhance the overhead drama. Planetarium programs range from preschool to adult level. Our laser light system offers the additional pleasure of a dazzling light show set to music great for all ages.
Weekend Show Schedule
Saturday, January 30
Weekday Show Schedule
The Kaleideum Planetarium is now open Wednesdays and Fridays! Check the schedule outside of the Planetarium for scheduled show times. Due to COVID-19, there is limited seating for your safety.
- Astro-Moose Goes to Space: Journey through the solar system with our intrepid “mooseonaut,” Astro Moose, in this animated program for the young astronomer. Grades K-3
- The Adventures of Little Cassini:Gaze at the stars on our 50-ft Planetarium dome, then go on an adventure with Little Cassini and explore the planets of our solar system in this animated program for the young astronomer. Grades K-3
- Discover the Earth, Moon and Sun: Learn about the interactions between the Earth, Moon, and Sun within our cosmic neighborhood. Watch the Earth from the International Space Station, learn how gravity keeps us on Earth, how the Sun keeps us alive, and how everything moves in sync in this educational program for the very young astronomers. Grades K-1
- The Solar System Tour: Take the grand tour of our solar system! From the sun and planets to moons, dwarf planets and more, join our planetarium educator on a trip through space. Grades 1-6
- Space in Motion: Learn about the basics of astronomy as we experience Earth’s rotation with our full-dome night sky, the revolutions of the planets, moon phases, eclipses and more! Grades 2-6
- Space: LIVE! -Explore our universe and learn about planets, the solar system, and news from Outer Space. Space: Live! programs vary based on the latest astronomical news.
- Tour of the Seasons: Discover why we have seasons and if other planets have seasons like Earth. See how the stars appear to change throughout the winter, spring, summer, and fall. Grades K-6
- Carolina Skies: This live, interactive program explores the stars and constellations visible in North Carolina’s night sky throughout the year. Grades 3+
- Follow the Drinking Gourd: A folk tale of an enslaved family who follows the Big Dipper North on a quest for freedom. Grades 3+
- Space Voyagers: Delve into the mysteries, physics, and history of atronomy, our solar neighborhood, black holes, dark matter, dark energy and more about our awe-inspiring universe. Grades 5+
- All About the Cosmos: Delve into the mysteries, physics, and history of discovery of our awe-inspiring universe. Grades 5+
- Musical Laser Shows: Our laser shows offer a dazzling light display set to music for all ages. These shows are not suitable for those who are photo or motion sensitive. (15 minutes)
History of the Planetarium
History of the Planetarium at the Nature Science Center/SciWorks/Kaleideum North
The Nature Science Center opened in December 1964 in a barn at Reynolda Village. The planetarium was in a silo attached to that barn.
The Nature Science Center moved to Hanes Mill Road in 1974. In 1978, a project enclosed the space between the northernmost buildings to create a 3000 square-foot exhibit hall. This room is now the traveling exhibit hall and a small planetarium was located in that room.
The Nature Science Center closed in the fall of 1991 when construction began to renovate the building and grounds. During construction, the museum changed its name to SciWorks and operated from a location in Hanes Mall with a gift shop and a few small exhibits. The new Environmental Park opened in August 1992 and the new building opened in November 1992. This is the building as it stands today, except for FoodWorks, the extension to the Mountains to Sea hall, and the Outdoor Science Park.
After the 2001 capital campaign, construction began in 2002 to add the FoodWorks dining hall, expand the gift shop, enlarge the Mountains to Sea hall, and renovate the spaces that are now SoundWorks, Learning Lab 2, HealthWorks, KidsWorks, Learning Lab 3, and the Education offices.
After the SciVision 2006 campaign, new exhibits were installed in SoundWorks (the room was renovated in 2002 but the existing exhibits were reused), PhysicsWorks, and TechWorks (later renamed to KevaWorks). BioWorks was renovated in 2009.
A grant allowed construction of the Outdoor Science Park in 2011, which rerouted the Environmental Park entrance from a walkway in front of the building to a connection from the Outdoor Science Park. Fencing was installed to force all outdoor park traffic through the main building.
The dome is a ported hyposphere with a diameter of 50 feet. At the time of construction, it was the darkest Spitz dome in the world—the color is called Midnight Stardust. With the advent of digital projection, this has become a fairly standard color. There are 119 seats. It was designed for 125 but the architect forgot to include space for the console, so adding the console dropped seating to 120 when it opened. Later, an upgraded video projector required one seat on the back row to be removed. Theater and cove lighting can be controlled manually from the console and through automation, and there are switched service lights and above-dome lights. The exterior of the planetarium was designed to function as a sundial, but the notch was positioned incorrectly so the sundial never worked.
- The star projector is a Spitz System 512 with ATM-3 automation. Kaleideum has the largest System 512 console in the world, and that record will continue to stand since the System 512 is no longer produced. Scott Niskach, the education and planetarium director at the time of construction, specified a system that would allow for future expansion and provide maximum operator control.
- The concept for the Spitz star projector dates to 1945 and most technology in the planetarium is from the 1950s.
- A 75-watt xenon arc lamp (now an LED from Ash Enterprises) projects 2,354 stars. A cutoff ring keeps stars from projecting into the audience or onto the floor.
- Incandescent or halogen lamps provide all other projections.
- The elevator has three positions for different operating modes
- The entire star projector can be stowed in an 11-foot-deep pit under the doghouse
- The projector can be fully raised to position the starfield properly in the dome
- The projector can be lowered two feet from the fully raised position to allow clearance for the projections from the slide projectors
- The U.S. Air Force Academy planetarium automated their elevator to conceal and reveal the projector at the beginning and end of each show. One day when no operator was present, the limit switch failed and the projector lowered without uprighting itself first. When the operator returned, the planet cage and star ball were found on opposite sides of the room.
- The planet cage is 23.5 degrees off-axis to reproduce axial tilt, and the precession axis is 23.4 degrees off-center to reproduce the precession cycle. The planet cage provides mounting, alignment, and power for the sun, moon, and planet projections.
- Mercury cutoffs are fitted over the astronomical coordinate projectors to prevent the images from projecting into the audience or onto the floor.
- There are no absolute position sensors on any of the motion axes, so precise movements have to be calculated from the home position for consistent results.
- Spitz introduced computer automation in the 1960s and it was engineered to fit the 1950s technology, instead of re-engineering the old electronic designs to fit the computer technology.
History of Spitz Incorporated
Spitz Laboratories was formed in 1945 by Dr. Armand Spitz, working from his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1949, Spitz Laboratories moved to a commercial building in Philadelphia. In 1953, Spitz Laboratories moved to Elkton, Maryland, then in 1955 relocated to Yorklyn, Delaware. Armand retired in 1969 and sold Spitz to McGraw Hill, who moved the company to a new factory in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where it remains today.
The first Spitz planetarium projector was the Model A, which was introduced in 1947. Updated Models A1 and A2 were produced through 1960. In 1961 for the Model A3P, Spitz went with a complete redesign featuring a spherical starball. The Model A4 was introduced in 1968 as an update to the A3P. The A4 carried over the starball and basic mechanical structure from the A3P, but everything else was significantly upgraded. The System 512 is a minor update to the A4 and was introduced in 1973 to replace the A3P and A4.
Betsy Sawyer – original planetarium director when the Nature Science Center opened in 1964. Served on the SciWorks board of directors until the merger with the Children’s Museum in 2016.
Scott Niskach – hired in 1991 as education and planetarium director to oversee the design and construction of the new SciWorks planetarium. Left in 1994.
Duke Johnson – hired by Scott in 1993 as a planetarium technician. Became education and planetarium director upon Scott’s departure. Left in 2003.
Karen Osterer – hired in 1995 as a planetarium technician. Left in 2000.
Ralph White – hired in 2001 as a planetarium technician. Left in 2004.
Drew Meyer – educator reassigned to planetarium technician in 2004. Left in 2006.
Ralph White returned as planetarium and astronomy coordinator in 2006 and left in 2008.
Justin Nichols – promoted to planetarium technician in 2008. Resigned in 2013 and returned to part-time status.
Shawn Fitzmaurice – hired in 2013 as a planetarium technician. Left in 2016.
Tom Hillis – educator who acquired planetarium responsibilities in 2016. Left in 2018.
Caitlyn Zarzar – current manager of the Planetarium and STEM theater programs.
Written by Justin Nichols, Planetarium Technician at Kaleideum North.
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