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The Chicago Traveler

Adler Planetarium

by Matt B on April 7th, 2008

adler planetarium

The Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum opened in 1930 and was the first planetarium built in the Western Hemisphere. It is home to two full-size theaters, including the world's first all-digital projection StarRider Theater. It stands on Northerly Island (next to Charter One Pavilion), which was initially meant to be the first of several man-made islands along the lakeshore.

adler planetarium zeiss projectorIn 1923, Dr. Walther Bauersfeld of the Carl Zeiss Corporation in Germany designed a projector fully capable of accurately reproducing the night sky. Placed in the center of a hemispherical room, the machine produced a precise celestial map onto the inner surface of a dome.

In 1928, Max Adler, a philanthropist and early stockholder of Sears, Roebuck and Company, was so impressed by the mechanism that he donated funds to construct the first modern planetarium in the Western Hemisphere.

'Chicago has been striving to create, and in large measure has succeeded in creating, facilities for its citizens of today to live a life richer and more full of meaning than was available for the citizens of yesterday. Toward the creation of such opportunities I have desired to contribute. The popular conception of the Universe is too meager; the Planets and the stars are too far removed from general knowledge. In our reflections, we dwell too little upon the concept that the world and all human endeavor within it are governed by established order and too infrequently upon the truth that under the heavens everything is inter-related, even as each of us to each other.' 'Max Adler (Adler Planetarium)

adler planetarium zodiac aquarius plaqueThe historic landmark building was designed by architect Ernest Grunsfeld, whose grandson is now a NASA astronaut. Each of the 12 corners is decorated with a bronze plaque, each representing a sign of the zodiac. The dedication plaque in the Rainbow Lobby depicts the gods and goddesses for which the planets are named, but Pluto is missing because it had not been discovered yet. (However, according to the IAU redefinition of a 'planet' in 2006, its absence may be considered appropriate.)

Both then and now, the museum contains an impressive collection of artifacts in navigation, engineering, timekeeping, and astronomy. Some of the oldest artifacts date back to 12th-century Persia. Displays include:

' a reproduction of Stonehenge
' the world's oldest-known sundial
' pages from Alan Guth's notebook
' a telescope by William Herschel
' a view of the Chicago night sky without light pollution
' the Dearborn telescope (at one point the largest telescope in the world)

In 1999, the Adler opened the 60,000 ft2 (5,574 m2) Sky Pavilion, which features a telescope terrace, a lakefront restaurant, and the StarRider Theater, a completely digital, immersive, dome-based, video-projection environment powered by simulator technology.

Our understanding of the Universe changes constantly, and the Adler Planetarium helps visitors of all ages keep pace with the times and learn about old and new discoveries.

General Admission is $10 for adults, $6 for kids (ages 4-17), and $8 for seniors (65 and over). Chicago residents pay $8, $5, and $6, respectively. Special shows and exhibits may cost extra. Adler Planetarium is also one of over 25 attractions whose admission is included with the Go Chicago Card. Parking is $15 per car on non-event days, higher on days when the Chicago Park District holds special events nearby. Important note: The parking lot is cash only. For directions, admission prices, and other general information, check out the website.

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Photo credit (via Flickr): Go Card USA, buriednexttoyou, Atelier Teee, Scutter, MountainBread, iheartspam, Terryfic5, David Paul Ohmer

Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum: 1300 S Lake Shore Dr; 312-922-STAR (7827)
Daily: 9:30 a.m. ' 4:30 p.m.
(Summer: 9:30 a.m. ' 6:00 p.m.)
First Fri of every month: 9:30 a.m. ' 10:00 p.m.
Pay lot available
Public trans: Bus # 12, 146

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POSTED IN: Architecture & Attractions, Museums

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