Stargazing at Milwaukee's biggest planetarium

Last week I mentioned visiting the Soref Planetarium at the Milwaukee Public Museum and I was struck by how empty it was. Certainly that’s due to the fact that the school groups that are the museum’s weekday bread and butter were absent for the summer.

Having grown up in a city with a world-renowned planetarium, I always took it for granted that everyone’s been to one … and more than once. The Soref, which opened in late 2006, is among the top 11 planetariums in size in the U.S. and is great fun. Here's why.

1) It’s in the IMAX theater, so it’s dramatic. The video presentation is expansive and engulfing and is probably as close as you’ll get to riding in the front seat of the space shuttle.

2) The two-part program started with a very knowledgeable museum narrator explaining what we could see above Milwaukee later that night. He showed us Venus and Saturn and let us know that we’d be able to spot the space shuttle and the space station -- which had just separated -- rocketing across the northern sky. After dark, we went out and saw all of it.

“If you spot a slow, steady star gliding across the night sky over the next week, it’s not an UFO. It’s just the Space Shuttle and Space Station orbiting the Earth,” says Bob Bonadurer, planetarium director.

3) Part two was a “canned” -- for lack of a better word -- film about the “Wonders of the Universe,” which was stunning, informative and interesting.

4) Because it’s a mix of pretty pictures and astronomic information, the planetarium shows (“Wonders of the Universe” is just one of the current options) are perfect for all ages. While the glowing orbs, twinkling stars and stellar colors will amaze the youngest viewers, there’s enough meat on the bones of the show to keep a parent engaged, too.

Fun fact: Did you know there are eight planetariums in the Milwaukee area? They are at the Public Museum, UWM, Brown Deer, Madison, Hamilton, Wauwatosa West and Oak Creek High Schools and at the Retzer Nature Center in Waukesha.


catalonia | July 11, 2007 at 4:40 p.m. (report)

I agree, the planetarium is a great addition to the museum. Why don't more people know about it?

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mitchgat | June 27, 2007 at 8:19 a.m. (report)

34110 Thanks for the tip... can't wait to check it out.

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