What Is a Planetarium?

planetarium Credit: Hill Street Studios/Blend Images/Getty Images

A planetarium is a facility designed to replicate the features of the universe in the night sky. Similar to a museum or science center, planetariums are developed in communities to offer education and entertainment to people curious about the field of astronomy. Visitors typically pay admission fees to enter just as they would at a theater or zoo.

A standard planetarium room has a projection of the night sky on a dome ceiling. Visitors sit in theater-style seating below and look up at the projection. In some rooms, the images are static. In others, movement takes place to replicate movement of the moon, stars and planets in the sky. Some science centers have planetarium rooms where films about the universe are displayed on the dome ceiling for people to watch.

Some large planetariums have telescopes for guests to use to detect more intricate details of the universe and smaller stars in the sky. Multimedia technology making use of sound and lights is also used to deliver live presentations on different astronomical topics. People can visit at different days and times to learn about different elements of the sky. Elementary schools in some communities schedule planetarium field trip visits for some students as part of their curriculum.