Featured Planetariums

Travelers Science Dome at the Gengras Planetarium – Fall 2016

Williamsville Space Lab Planetarium – Winter 2015

  • Jake the Robot and Mike the Robot having fun together

James E. Richmond Science Center – Fall 2015

  • JERSC Staff Members

Varia Planetarium – Summer 2015

  • Exhibit Hall

Mr. K.’s Mobile Dome Planetarium – Spring 2015

Feature My Planetarium!

The Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society highlights one planetarium per season that is either exemplary, unique, updated, or has implemented new programming, automation, outreach programs, or is shining brightly in the MAPS region and is affiliated with our organization.

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The Henry W. Ray Special Experience Room – Winter 2006

The H.W.Ray Special Experience Room

Don Knapp, Director of Multimedia Experiences
McDonald Elementary School
666 Reeves Lane
Warminster, PA 18974

Year planetarium opened:

Opened to Public 1969

Tell us about your planetarium:

The Henry W. Ray Special Experience Room , located in the Everett A. McDonald Elementary School, opened in 1969 as a combination multimedia theater/planetarium. To accommodate this multiple purpose, the planetarium star projector, usually mounted permanently in the center of the planetarium, was constructed on a elevator so that the Spitz STP star projector could be lowered completely out of the theater when not in use. In its stowed position, the star projector is completely hidden by two trap doors which are flush to the floor when closed. It is believed that this was the first school planetarium in the world to utilize an elevator in this manner. Unlike most planetarium theaters, the Special Experience Room was built with no permanent seating arrangement. Chairs were arranged in a variety of formations, depending upon the type of presentation being given. For most lessons, ordinary class room chairs were arranged on three levels of risers which faced one half of the theater. In this configuration, approximately 45 students could be accommodated for a typical planetarium lesson.

During the summer of 2006, several improvements were made to the theater. A digital imaging system, capable of projecting full-dome video on to the theater’s 12.2-meter dome, was added to the theater in August. The new SciDome projector can be used in place of our aging optical star projector, or as a supplement to it. In order to provide the best possible viewing experience, fifty permanent theater-type seats were also installed. The front third of the theater, however, remains open so that the flexibility of the SER can be maintained. In addition, a computer-controlled LED lighting system was installed to allow more precise control over the lighting conditions used in the theater.

A large assortment of multimedia equipment is available to enhance the lessons presented, including two 6-projector slide matrices, a DVD player, two laser disc players, two videotape players, two large-image video projectors, and a multi-channel digital sound system.

The Special Experience Room offers over forty different curriculum- based lessons to the 6,300 students in the Centennial School District. Since each elementary grade level has multiple visits, this translates into over 13,500 student contacts per year. Many of these lessons are totally unrelated to astronomy, yet utilize the unique teaching environment of the SER.At least twelve public presentations are also given each school year. In addition, the SER is available for rental by community groups throughout the year.

What type of equipment do you have?

Spitz Space Transit Planetarium (1969)
Spitz SciDome HB Digital Fulldome Projector (2007)
40 ft. extended dome
East Coast Control System/Spitz ATM-4 Automation
50 Uni-directional Seats

Suits-Beuche Planetarium – Fall 2006

Suits-Beuche Planetarium

Steven LJ Russo, Planetarium Manager
Schenectady Museum
15 Nott Terrace Heights
Schenectady, NY 12308

Year planetarium opened:

Opened to Public 1970

Tell us about your planetarium:

When the Schenectady Museum opened in its current building in 1970, the old Spitz A2 was set up in a new dome. In 1977, the A2 was replaced with a Spitz A3P. This projector was the heart of the Planetarium until October 2006, when it was replaced by a new GOTO Chronos Space Simulator Star Machine.

The new GOTO was the final phase of a two part renovation, which began in 2003 with an automation system designed by East Coast Control Systems. At that time, all of our old special effect projectors and our A3P were modified to run with the new ECCS automation. Also replaced, was the old Lumiline cove system with an ECCS Pleiades system. Twenty one new Kodak EIII slide projectors were installed, as were two video projectors, a new sound system, new computers, and a new planetarium entrance containing two 42 inch plasma screens.

The Planetarium was re-named the Suits-Bueche Planetarium, after two prominent GE Research and development scientists.

The first phase of the renovation was made possible by the Robb Family Foundation, who contributed 200K Dollars for the renovation.

Walter Robb was first impressed by planetariums due to a visit to the Fels Planetarium as a child. He was a leading person at GE Research and Development, and was one of lead scientists in the development of the MRI machine. In 1993, he received the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton.

The second phase of the renovation came in 2006, with the purchase of theGOTO Chronos Space Simulator. A 200K Dollar Grant from the Wright Family foundation plus another large contribution from the Robb Family Foundation secured the money needed to purchase the GOTO.

Full Time Staff at the Planetarium, consists of Planetarium Manager Steven LJ Russo, and Assistant Planetarium Manager, Megan Dominguez. There are also several part time console operators who present programs on weekends, and during the week to school groups.

The Suits-Bueche Planetarium has public programs on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00 PM, and Tuesdays through Fridays at 2:00 PM. All programs contain a “live” segment about the current seasonal sky, with the 3:00 Program being a totally “live” program of the seasonal sky.

During the year, the Planetarium also hosts several events such as star parties and observing sessions. Those events are usually hosted jointly with the Dudley Observatory, Albany Area Amateur Astronomers, and the Henry Hudson Planetarium in Albany, NY.

The Grand Re-Opening celebration took place on Saturday evening, October 28th, 2006, with over 200 people in attendance. They enjoyed several 15-minute live presentations of the current sky, live music, a pre-Halloween costume contest, and astronomical snacks including “Moon Pies”!

What type of equipment do you have?

Goto Chronos Space Simulator Planetarium, 30 ft. dome
East Coast Control Systems Automation
60 Seat Uni-directional

Vanderbilt Planetarium – Summer 2006

Vanderbilt Planetarium

David Bush, Tech & Production Coordinator
Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum
180 Little Neck Road
Centerport, New York

Planetarium Website:


Planetarium Facebook page:


Planetarium Twitter handle:


Year planetarium opened:

Opened to Public 1971

Tell us about your planetarium:

Image cycling is a new development in the Spinning (Indoor cycling) craze that is gaining popularity across the country in our fitness centers. It seemed only natural when Dave Bush of the Vanderbilt Planetarium teamed up with John Hinrichsen from Image Cycling to combine the image capabilities afforded by a planetarium with Spinning to enhance the participant’s experience.

I recently visited both at the Vanderbilt Planetarium on a hot afternoon, on the cool North Shore of Long Island, to be clued in on the new phenomena they have created along with Tony Sforza, Maryjo Ruckel and Isabel Shepard-Schaefer. Well…. new in a sense that it is under the dome.

Spinning has been on the rise for the past 10 years. The ability to coach spinners on a mental ride that is challenging and rewarding is the job of the Spin Instructor. A good instructor can motivate the participant to increase the time spent spinning, and increase the benefits by physically challenging the participants to various degrees of exertion, and engagement while spinning.

The mind and body link here is the main key to an ultimate work out. Planetariums are natural places of concentration / meditation , and all dome visuals can create an amazing immersive backdrop to the experience. Using dome as an immersive experience is achieved with simulated sunsets, sunrises, mountain tops, nebulae and galaxies which can set the mood, create the environment, and stimulate spinners to achieve more. Participants are stimulated physically to bring themselves to a heightened state of emotion by gradually elevating their heart rates. Combining the experience with an environment that reflects the challenge of the instructors aids in achieving that heightened state of emotion.

Now imagine yourself ready to ride, the music swells, instructors start the challenge and you’re off. Mentally racing up mountains, pedaling through a planetarium simulated thunderstorm, and swiftly cutting through the cool night guided by starlight. In one presentation you are in Africa, in another you are pedaling through the waves of your thought.

Dream Ride, Rock-n-Ride, African Safari are just a few of the themes they are working with to stimulate the spinning experience. The visuals and the ambiance can help make the ride and time go faster, increasing ones enjoyment, and benefits of spinning. Participants claim the images definitely intensify the experience saying that “it combines exercise and an escape from reality.”

Some things to think about.. Dave mentioned that “Due to the rapid growth in Spinning, the potential of interested participants could be….astronomical!” When I returned home, I started talking about this with our staff, I learned there is a cult following of sorts for different instructors in the area. Instructors that are dynamic, have good pacing and can challenge their group to achieve are in demand and develop a following. Now just think of what that extra revenue might help to fund. Perhaps, a few stationary bicycles to start with!

~Submitted by Ted Wiliams

What type of equipment do you have?

Custom Goto Planetarium, 60 ft. dome
Sky-Skan Spice Automation
236 Seat Uni-directional
Cove lighting- Christmas lights adapted with translucent paint
Up to 5 presentations daily & Special Events