Visiting the Hayden Planetarium

The Hayden Planetarium in New York City’s Central Park offers the visitor a glimpse into the world of astrophysics through their fascinating exhibits, programs presented to the public, and a wealth of resources online and in print. The planetarium is operated through the American Museum of Natural History and admission to museum grants the visitor access to the planetarium’s excellent space shows.

The planetarium was built in 1935 using donations from Charles Hayden and a loan from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation with the purpose of providing the public a way to satisfy their curiosity about the universe and to experience their place in it. This original structure was demolished in 1997 and it wasn’t until 2000 that the new Rose Center for Earth and Space in which the planetarium was housed opened to the public. The planetarium in 1936 published it’s own magazine titled Sky, which merged in 1941 with another astronomy magazine called Telescope to form Sky & Telescope that is still in publication today. In the 1950s the planetarium satisfied the public’s craze for rocket ships with the world’s first space symposium and when the Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969, it was the Hayden’s Kenneth Franklin who ran commentary with Walter Cronkite during the event.

The Hayden’s Space Shows are a highlight of any trip to the planetarium. While sitting under a 67-foot hemispheric dome the visitor is made to feel he or she is a part of the experience of a journey into the cosmos. The digital video shows change on a regular basis so there is always some new aspect of our universe to see.

The planetarium is proud of its public programs on the first and final Tuesday of each month. During these presentations, the curious can spend an hour learning about our solar system, the physics of unvierse, or learn how to find constellations. Their program Virtual Universe on the first Tuesday of the month sends visitors on a tour of space via Digital Universe, a three-dimensional atlas that shows Earth’s place in the universe. The final Tuesday of the month is a live presentation under the stars. This Celestial Highlights program uses the Zeiss Mark IX Star Projector to show the position of star groups, planets, and the moon to help guide amateur astronomers in their own sky watching.

Special events at the planetarium have included occasions such as the Hayden’s 70th birthday, a look at space photography, and a discussion of Einstein’s relativity theory. Be sure to check their web site for current events. The annual event that brings some of the most brilliant minds in astrophysics to the planetarium is the Isaac Asimov Memorial Panel Debate. The debate occurs each spring and a group of panelists debate their way through the latest scientific topics.

Not only is the planetarium a terrific place to visit in person, their web site offers a host of materials for anyone interested in astronomy. Handy links on their web site include their own Digital Universe Atlas, science bulletins from the American Museum of Natural History, and astronomical images from the Hubble Space Telescope. The web site’s blog also is a great source of current information on recent discoveries in astronomy and space exploration.

In addition to feeding the public’s curiosity about astrophysics both in person and online, the Hayden Planetarium staff serves as consultants for books, movies, and art displays.

The planetarium can be visited daily from 10 am to 5:45 pm except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. They are located in the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City’s Central Park. The Hayden’s web site can be visited any time at
Creative Commons License photo credit: ericskiff