Definitions

Golden House of Nero

Timeline of planetariums

Historic Influences

1500 B.C.E. Egyptian tomb of Senenmut—earliest known depiction of the sky
500 B.C.E. “The Dome of Heaven”—oldest known domed building built by the Etruscans
428/427 BC – 348/347 BC Greek philosopher Plato discusses his Allegory of the Cave, in which most humans perceive reality as shadows from projections on the inside of an enclosed space. It is by looking at these projected shadows of objects (and not the objects themselves) that most people try to best understand the world.
370 B.C.E. Farnese Atlas, probably the oldest preserved globe is now at the National Museum of Naples. The statue of Atlas is dated 73 BCE. The position of the constellation figures to the globe's equinox date the globe itself to 370 BCE. Two other celestial globes believed to date from Classical times are the Kugel globe, and the Mainz globe
250 B.C.E. Archimedes first to demonstrate a cast-metal globe showing the motions of the planets. After he was killed by invading Romans, the device was taken to Rome as booty where it was seen and described by Cicero. Later, Ptolemy’s globe is alleged to have even demonstrated the precession of the equinoxes.
50 B.C.E. The Hathor temple at Dendera dates from Ptolemaic times, probably the first century BCE. The temple contains two well-known, but slightly different representations of the heavens. There is a round zodiac ceiling and a square zodiac in the outer hypostyle hall. The round zodiac ceiling shows the whole sky as it was understood by both Greek and Egyptian cultures.
62 C.E. The Golden House of Nero includes a dome rotating with the sky.
124 C.E. Roman Pantheon constructed
150 C.E. Ptolemy’s Celestial Globe. No globe has been found, but detailed notes its on construction have.
531 C.E. “Palace of Chosros” at Ctesiphon, near modern Baghdad, Iraq, whose massive 85-foot-high brick arch was said to be painted with stars against a blue background, indicating the zodiac.
1584 Celestial Globe of Tycho Brahe. Covered with brass and a wood interior measuring six feet in diameter. Destroyed by fire in 1728, the outer surface was divided by circles to show degrees and minutes and stars visible with the naked eye. A disadvantage to earlier globes was that they showed the sky in reverse, the observer could only view the stars as seen outside the planetsphere.
1654 Globe of Gottorf, constructed in the middle of the 17th century, was about four meters in diameter, weighed over three tons, and could seat several persons inside on a circular bench. The stars were holes in the globe. Rebuilt 1748-52.
1700s Navajo 'Star Ceilings' painted by hand and with 'paint arrows' on overhanging cliff faces in Canyon De Chelly
1744 Eise Eisinga’s planetarium (actually an orrery) in Franeker, province of Friesland, The Netherlands, is the oldest working one in the world. It was built in the years 1774 - 1781.
1846 Carl Zeiss Company founded. Zeiss produced microscopes in his home workshop. Later collaboration with Ernst Abbe resulted in the first optical instruments produced from theory and plans, rather than from trial and error. Later still, Otto Schott, a glassmaker, introduced a process for producing good quality optical glass reliably, and the company established its reputation as a maker of high-quality optical goods.
1912 Orbitoscope invented by Prof. E. Hindermann in Basel. (Note: This instrument is driven by springworks and has two planets revolving about a central Sun. A small light bulb on one of the planets projects shadows of the other two objects in the directions they would be seen from that planet, reproducing accurately the retrograde loops and speed changes. This ingenious device is useful for instruction, but of course had many shortcomings)
1913 Atwood Globe built in the Museum of the Chicago Academy of Sciences. With a diameter of almost five meters the Atwood globe shows 692 stars, and a moveable light bulb represents the Sun. Apertures along the ecliptic, which can be uncovered as necessary, represent the planets.
The idea of realistically reproducing the sky in detail is due to astronomer (and then privy counselor) Max Wolf. He was involved with the Deutsches Museum. Wolf had suggested to von Miller the idea of a device for his museum which would reproduce not only the stars but also the planetary motions. Von Miller approached the well-known optical firm of Carl Zeiss in Jena, and they agreed to look into the problem.

Development of Modern Planetariums

1919 Walther Bauersfeld, chief design engineer and later director of Carl Zeiss, hit upon the idea of projection of the celestial objects in a dark room. The original plan had been for some sort of globe similar to that of the 1654 Globe of Gottorf. The new idea simplified things immensely. The mechanism could be on a small scale and easily controllable. Five years of calculations and trials were needed to bring this idea to fruition. Five years, in which Bauersfeld and a large staff of scientists, engineers, and draftsmen considered the astronomical principles involved and the mechanical devices which would realize them. They constructed star plates of film with images of 4500 stars. They found ways of interconnecting the daily and annual motion drives so the planets would stay in proper relative positions. In short they invented the modern projection planetarium.
1923 The “Wonder of Jena” had its first unofficial showings in the 16-meter dome which was set up on the roof of the Zeiss factory in Jena, using the first Model I star projector.
The Zeiss Mark I was taken down and shipped to the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany, where it was installed in a 10-meter dome, becoming the first planetarium.
Elis Stromgren wrote: “Never before was an instrument created which is so instructive as this; never before one so bewitching; and never before did an instrument speak so directly to the beholder. The machine itself is precious and aristocratic… The planetarium is school, theater, and cinema in one classroom under the eternal dome of the sky.”
1925 World premiere of the “Wonder of Jena” (Das Wunder von Jena) at the Deutsches Museum, Munich, Germany
1927 First planetarium built outside Germany, a temporary installation in Vienna
1928 Rome planetarium opens
1929 Moscow planetarium opens
1930 Five new planetariums, including ones in Stockholm, Milan, Hamburg, a new one for Vienna, and the first outside of Europe. In 1928, Max Adler, a Chicago philanthropist, heard of the “Wonder of Jena” and took his wife and an architect to Germany to see it. He was so impressed, he donated to his home city the first planetarium in the Americas. On May 12, 1930, the Adler Planetarium greeted its first visitors.
1935 The planetarium at Griffith Observatory opened on May 14 and the Hayden Planetarium on October 2. During these years, other instruments began to show the sky in Sweden, Belgium, and Holland. Except for the latter, all were Zeiss Mark IIs.
1937 Osaka planetarium opens
1938 Tokyo planetarium opens
1944 The only large planetarium installation by the Carl Zeiss Company was in Goteborg, Sweden. The Mark II projector was removed to the Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.A., in 1949.
1949 Spitz Laboratories was founded, first in an old factory building and then in an old theater. The first Spitz projector was demonstrated to a meeting of astronomers at Harvard College Observatory in the late-1940s. As the enterprise grew, they later moved to an old snuff factory in Yorklyn, Delaware, and are now located in a spacious new factory in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. The company has changed its corporate ownership several times in its brief history and is now owned by Evans & Sutherland.
1952 After the war neither of Zeiss’s two main factories in Oberkochen and Jena were capable of building a planetarium projector. Because of this, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco commissioned a comparable, one-of-a-kind projector for the Morrison Planetarium. After four years of design and construction, it was opened on November 6. While all earlier planetariums (and nearly all subsequent) show only the planets from Mercury through Saturn, this one-of-a-kind projector also shows the planet Uranus, usually not counted as being of naked eye visibility, and so left out of planetarium projections.
1959 Seizo Goto, a leading Japanese industrialist, used the expertise of his company in the field of telescopes to produce the first Goto planetarium. After trials in Japan, the first Goto in the United States filled the sky with stars in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on January 20, 1962. The Goto company was actually the first to produce a small projector which included planetary motions. Many Goto instruments have since been installed all over the world, a large number in the U.S.A.
1963 Fleischmann Atmospherium Planetarium was built on the University of Nevada-Reno campus. It was the first planetarium in the nation to feature a 360-degree projector capable of providing horizon-to-horizon images and through time-lapse photography showing an entire day’s weather in a few minutes.
1965 Minolta Company of Japan, known for high-quality cameras and optics, made some tentative entries into the field in the mid-1960's. Their first planetarium was at DeAnza College in California. By the late 1960's, Minolta had decided to officially enter the planetarium business.
1966 Phillip Stern, a former lecturer at the Hayden Planetarium and director of the Bridgeport Planetarium, develops the first programmable planetarium, the Apollo model. Unable to finance this himself, he has a small audio-visual firm on Long Island, Viewlex, manufacture and market the planetarium, mostly to schools. Later this is joined by the first model to be portable, with an inflatable dome.

Digital and Fulldome Video

1983 First Evans & Sutherland Digistar I calligraphic scan (projection of light points and lines - also known as vector scan) planetarium projector at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A.
1995 First Evans & Sutherland Digistar II calligraphic scan planetarium projector opens at the London Planetarium, UK
1996 July 13-19: First Goto Virtuarium demonstrated at the International Planetarium Society Conference in Osaka, Japan
October 26-29: Evans & Sutherland StarRider demonstrated at ASTC in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
1998 June 28 - July 2: Sky-Skan premieres SkyVision at the International Planetarium Society Conference in London, UK, demonstrating the first digital fulldome playback animation
1999 Adler Planetarium reopens in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A., with an Evans & Sutherland StarRider system
2000 Hayden Planetarium reopens at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, New York, U.S.A., with a Silicon Graphics Onyx 2 and Trimension video system
2001 First-mirror projector combination demonstrated at the Western Alliance of Planetariums conference in Eugene, Oregon, U.S.A.
2003 Clark Planetarium reopens in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A., with an Evans & Sutherland Digistar 3
2003 Nehru Planetarium,Mumbai Digistar-3 Planetarium equipment installed in 2003 replacing the earlier Carl Zeiss Universal Projector
Adler Planetarium upgrades their StarRider to the new Evans & Sutherland Digistar 3 system; a mini-dome opens in their production department running both Digistar 3 SP and Producer systems
2008 Intech hands on science centre, Winchester, UK adds UK's largest digital planetarium Immersive theatre experience which can be geared towards key stages 2-5, opens easter 2008

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