Help build a planetarium in Minnesota

By Phil Plait | June 12, 2009 10:22 am

It’s no secret I love planetaria. All you have to do is show up, take a seat, and they’ll show you the stars! Or a video adventure that can explain black holes, or the planets, or why Saturn has rings. Millions of schoolchildren see planetarium shows every year, and I’m all for that.

And that’s why I will (temporarily) bury the hatchet with PZ, who asked me to see if any Minnesotan astronomy enthusiasts out there would help rebuild and expand a planetarium in Minneapolis. They need to raise quite a bit of money, and it would be nice to see this new facility up and running.

Of course, I’m very much supportive of teaching more astronomy in Minnesota, especially if it means less time for biology. You have to have priorities.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Humor, Science

Comments (35)

  1. Ryan The Biologist

    Hey! What’s wrong with biology?!

  2. Jeff

    Good cause,

    all my relatives have lived in good ole Minneapolis since the sixties, but I’m a defector, moving to Florida.

  3. Trebuchet

    A good cause. Perhaps you can enlist the help of John McCain.

  4. John Baxter

    I loved going to the nifty Zeiss planetarium at Griffith Park in Los Angeles in my early youth, and older youth (my youth continues at 70, now).

    On the way, I got to stare at what we used to call “analog television” (RIP) in the display by the building’s other entrance. (We didn’t get a television set of our own until later, in 1952–a round-screen Zenith, upon which, among other things, appeared the hardly-famous Dumont Television Network.)

    We need to help the kids in Minnesota create similar memories.

  5. rob

    @Ryan The Biologist:

    too bad they are building a planetarium, not a planaria.


  6. theinquisitor

    “I will (temporarily) bury the hatchet with PZ”

    What hatchet? Did I miss something?

  7. Becca Stareyes

    theinquisitor @ 7
    Phil and PZ have had a joking rivalry since both were up for the Best Science Blog in a contest a couple of years ago.

  8. T.E.L.

    theinquisitor Said:

    “What hatchet? Did I miss something?”

    Yes, you did. Phil’s lawyer informed him recently that, way back in 1989, PZ sneakily bamboozled Phil out of his share of a family inheritance, and spent the ill-gotten gains on a supply of agar for his petri dishes. Phil’s share was somewhere way up in the dozens of dollars.

  9. This may explain why so many kids in Minnesota are alleged to have autism. They have been mis-diagnosed and are really suffering from PDD, planetarium deficiency disorder.

    I grew up in the Haydn Planetarium in NYC, and ground my first mirror there (6″). It was a 2-hour subway ride, with train changes, from the Beach.

  10. Molly

    They probably want one of those fancy overhead projectors too! ūüėČ

    The planetarium was definately one of my favorite places when I was young, and let’s be honest, it still is. I hope they receive an outpouring of support.

  11. rob

    here is some space news:

    it seems a boy was hit by a meteor.

  12. A worthy cause. Unfortunately, I am currently in Massachusetts, trying to expand Minnesota’s borders.

  13. Brian Smith

    I love the plane-arium (I have a rare bone disease that prevents me from saying the letter T)!

  14. gruebait

    Another damned overhead projector? sheesh…

  15. zan

    @13 Brian Smith
    i believe that disease is considered speaking cockney.!

  16. Dewes

    @Brian Smith

    LOL, South Park for ever!

  17. Mchl

    Are there many planetaria in the US? I mean how much per 1000 citizens?
    I ask this because it seems like they’re somewhat popular (“Millions of schoolchildren see planetarium shows every year…”), while in my country they’re certainly not. I’ve never been to one, and I’m not sure if there was a single one build in recent 30 years.

  18. Bicky

    Quite interesting science news, element 112 has been discovered. Great video:

  19. Brian Schlosser

    I grew up with a good planetarium here in Cincinnati at the Late, Lamented Cincinnati Museum of Natural History. In fact, I work down the street from where it stood, a site now occupied by Channel 9… The entrance to the planetarium was a giant hemisphere of the Moon… ah, memories! I miss that museum. Our current museum of natural history, while in the magnificent Union Terminal, is somewhat lacking and feels like an overgrown Children’s Museum. Sigh. Why couldn’t Marshall Fields have been located here???

  20. Charles Boyer

    I’m going to make a donation in the name of John McCain. He *loves* planetariums.

  21. pumpkinpie

    Thanks Phil, and the rest of the posters, for your support. I work on the project and I am so excited for it to happen.

  22. gruebait:

    Another damned overhead projector? sheesh…

    Darn. Beat me to it.


    I grew up in the Haydn Planetarium in NYC, and ground my first mirror there (6″). It was a 2-hour subway ride, with train changes, from the Beach.

    ITYM “Hayden”. But, I went there many times as a kid. I even got a behind-the-scenes tour, as it was run at one point by the nephew of a friend of my parents. The room full of numerous cabinet-sized boxes was probably less powerful than the laptop I’m typing this on.

    I tried to take the family a couple of years ago, but it turns out that all of NYC goes to the museum in rainy weather, and there wasn’t a parking spot available (even in the paid lots) for a 10 block radius.

  23. I am glad you and PZ are giving planetarium a chance.

  24. Marcos

    FYI, as far as McCain goes – Adler got the last laugh – their funding was in the 2009 omnibus.

  25. A worthy cause for sure! My oldest sister lives in Minnesota, but I don’t think she’s all that interested in science, sadly. Maybe I’ll make a donation in her name. :-)

  26. Maybe they can use “Hector Vector The Star Projector” since the planetarium at Flandrau Science Center is closing.



  27. I think it would be cool to do an eBay auction with signed books from you, a signed cephalopod from PZ, and random and sundry other stuff (surely neil degasse tyson would sign a book) to help raise funds/publicity. Betcha you could get something neat from Colbert as well.

  28. Re Mchl @8:

    According to Wikipedia, ” A rough estimate is that in the United States there is one planetarium per 100,000 population.”

    Also, I learned recently that during the “Space Race,” the gov’t would cover much of the cost for planetariums built in public schools.

  29. I don’t know which congressional district this will be in, but in a state that sends people like Michele Bachmann to Washington, there can never be too much investment in science education. I say can say this because my own state of Georgia is much the same.

  30. T.E.L.

    There are plenty of planetaria in the U.S.; many colleges and even some of the better-funded high schools have their own. There are at least two in town here where I live (a university and a children’s museum), and I’m aware of at least three more elsewhere in the surrounding state (two universities and a high school; the high school also has a small museum of space exploration inside the dome). But, the number of “Adler Grade” are kind of sparse. Most of the ones in schools have the much less sophisticated projectors. They’re good, but the sky representations aren’t usually very subtle. Still, it’s good that there’s enough interest to warrant so many of them around the Country.

  31. Barack Obama

    How much do you need, Mr. Plait? I’ll have the Treasury Department print it right up! Will $250 billion do? $500 billion?

    It’s morning in America!

  32. Quinn

    While we’re at it, anyone interested in helping restore the McGlaughlin Planetarium in Toronto?

  33. Mchl

    @unquiet_mind: There are 15 planetaria in my 38 mil country (including an 8meter one that’s apparently been buid from scratch by an amateur).

  34. Kevin

    I haven’t been to the Minneapolis planetarium since elementary school, and it would be nice to go there again. I was sad to see the old one torn down.

    I’m a big fan of our relatively new science museum, and other museums we have. (For those visiting, I highly recommend the Mill City Museum, not particularly science related, but still spectacular.) So I definitely support the cause. The new plans look pretty amazing. I’ll definitely be going as much as possible when it gets built. I’ll bring my young nephew (and any future children) and get him (them) into loving space.


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