Morehead Planetarium in North Carolina

There are two known planetariums in North Carolina which will definitely attract people who are very much interested in astronomy: the OmniSphere Theater in Greensboro and the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill. Originally known as The Edward R. Zane Planetarium before it was closed in August 2007 and reopened on February 2013, the OmniSphere Theater is part of the Natural Science Center of Greensboro. It features a 40-foot dome that puts the audience in an exciting way of screening the outer space. The theater boasts its Konica Minolta’s premier Media Globe II digital planetarium system. The theater screens feature-length films and documentary films that deal with the outer space.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, on the other hand, is North Carolina’s largest planetarium. It opened in 1949, the first planetarium in the south and the sixth built in the United States, initially for training Gemini and Apollo program astronauts. Responsible for the planetarium’s neoclassical design was John Russell Pope, the same person behind the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. The building’s construction made history for being the most expensive building ever built during that time, at $23 million dollars. The planetarium serves as a home for one of the world’s largest working Copernican orreries, devices used for illustrating positions and motions of the planets and moons in the solar system in a heliocentric model.

The first show in the planetarium was “Let There Be Light” and was followed by the “Star of Bethlehem” in 1949, a more popular show which survived the ages. The show has been repetitively revised all throughout and was still shown until 2002 and has been considered as the longest streak for any holiday show at any of the country’s planetarium. Morehead Planetarium can accommodate 250 viewers. It features a Carl Zeiss Model VI Planetarium Projector, which was installed in 1969, and can display about 8,900 different stars, with the help of slide projectors and video projectors, in the 68-foot dome. In 1973, the building’s East Wing was opened which led to the opening of the Morehead Observatory that includes a 24-inch Schmitt Cassegrain telescope.

It also became one of the first computer automated planetariums when its programs were installed for automation in 1984. More complex shows have become more possible from then on. Regular shows in the planetarium include “Carolina Skies,” a live star show that explores the current night sky of Carolina, “Destination: Space,” a multimedia production that features astronauts’ travel to the moon, “Extinction!” a multimedia production that explains the extinction of dinosaurs and the current situation of our animals, “Life In the Universe” which explores the universe for other possibilities of life and the “Solar System Adventure” that puts visitors in a guided “tour” in the solar system.¬†Other treats in Morehead include youth and family programs, school programs and other special events that would definitely make learning astronomy more than great.