Chicago's Magnificent Museums: Adler Planetarium behind-the-scenes-look

Friday, May 26, 2023
Chicago's Magnificent Museums: Adler Planetarium
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the Adler Planetarium, one of Chicago's magnificent museums.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Roz Varon has been exploring Chicago's Magnificent Museums, taking us behind the scenes, where visitors rarely go!

On Friday, she shares some surprises about the Adler Planetarium.

The Adler Planetarium is so special, from the sky shows to an observatory allowing you to see celestial objects trillions of miles away. Get ready for an out of this world experience!

The Adler Planetarium was the last institution to open at the museum campus, but one that was way ahead of its time!

"When Adler opened in 1930, this was the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere," Mike Smail, senior director of theaters at the Adler Planetarium, said. "We had a room, with a large mechanical machine, a fairly new bit of technology at the time, a planetarium projector that was able to project thousands of stars and planets and really replicate the night sky."

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That technology really didn't change until about 25 years ago with the shift from analog to digital.

"What that meant is now in addition to just projecting the starts and the planets, anything we can create, any sort of art, any sort of animation, any sort of graphics, we can now project in full color, 360 degrees, entirely wrapping around the audience," Smail said.

These sky shows are so popular, the Adler now has three full-sized sky theaters! The newest show celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of the best-selling albums of all time.

"About two years ago Pink Floyd reached out to the international planetarium society and said, 'Hey, we would like to make a show,' and the work developed over the last couple years and brought this 50th anniversary version of 'Dark Side of the Moon' to life!" Smail said.

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From the dark side of the moon to the light side of our solar system, through the Doane Observatory, and the largest publicly accessible telescope in the Chicagoland area.

"We're limited sometimes by the light pollution we have in Chicago, but it's not hopeless, so we can see planets, we can see double stars, we can see a handful of galaxies," Michelle Nichols, director of public observing at the Adler Planetarium. "What we were just looking at is the planet Venus, in the daytime!"

Back on earth, and inside the Adler you'll find a combination of exhibits and artifacts from the museum's collection of more than 8,000 objects, including the oldest telescope outside of Europe, made before 1640!

"The foundational goal of the museum for the Adler was always to both to provide a sense of history to teach people about the history of astronomy, but also to introduce them to modern concepts in astronomy," Dr. Katie Boyce-Jacino, curator and director of the Adler Planetarium.

With that in mind, the Adler will be brings out things that have never been on display before for a new exhibit coming in July. It promises to be out of this world!

That new exhibit will be called Stargazers Hub, and feature different tools for looking at the sky, and how people relate to it. In fact, the Adler has the largest collection of sundials and time-finding instruments in North America that date from the 15th to the 20th centuries!