A complete planetarium schedule, including show times and descriptions, is given in the *** Monthly Program and Show Summary *** below. Or if you are looking for a news update on an astronomical topic, check the Calusa Nature Center news page. A full-country Eclipse 2017 USA map is here (opens in new tab).
Ground was broken for the Calusa Nature Center Planetarium in May 1984, and construction was completed in December 1986. The planetarium dome is 44 feet in diameter. The planetarium has permanent seats for 87 people and 3 wheelchair spaces.
The Calusa Nature Center Planetarium is the only planetarium in Southwest Florida, with no other planetarium open to the public along the western half of Florida south of Bradenton.
In 2010, the original Spitz 512 planetarium projector was replaced by a new Konica Minolta Mediaglobe II digital projector, which allows for full-dome planetarium shows.
In 2011, a 40-foot by 11-foot stage was added to the front of the planetarium theater, making it more versatile for speakers, plays, small concerts and other special events (for example, in 2014 we’ve hosted chamber music, private parties, and fashion shows). A 2012 LCD video projector projects brightly from the rear of the planetarium, allowing us to show anything from a laptop, DVD player, or Blue Ray player. With a 44′ light path, the images are large as well as bright, making this venue suitable for everything from 80-person meetings to special corporate or social events to marriage proposals!
The planetarium is open each day the Calusa Nature Center is open and typically has educational shows at 12:00, 1:30 and 2:30 pm daily, although the schedule may slide later if there is great attendance at the live animal demo in the main building: we always wait for the live animal demo to end before beginning the “1:30” show, so you will not miss anything by going to both! Admission to planetarium shows is included in the Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium ticket price and all three daily show times are free to members. We also have special planetarium presentations each month; see below, or check News for even more details!
Each month, the planetarium director provides a guide to Our Current Sky.
The Calusa Nature Center Planetarium is the home of the Southwest Florida Astronomical Society. They hold their meetings on the first Thursday of each month from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm. Meeting topic is usually listed on our events page. You can learn more about them by visiting their website, www.theeyepiece.org.
Monthly Program and Planetarium Show Summary (these change at the beginning of each new month):
Every Friday at 11 a.m., (clear skies and holidays permitting) there’s Live Solar Observing using the Coronado Solar Telescope: Are there sunspots today? Prominences? A flare? Planetarium volunteers and/or staff will show you the Sun “live” as few people get to see it. Catch our narrow-band filter’s detailed view of the Sun live on the platform in front of the planetarium at noon on Fridays, weather permitting. This telescope allows safe viewing of the Sun’s disk by restricting the admitted light to only a very narrow band of visible wavelengths at the deep red end of the spectrum, centered on the “Hydrogen Alpha” line. You can see the Sun’s surface in impressive detail using the extremely narrow-band H-alpha filter that protects our telescope and your eyes from too much sunlight! This fascinating opportunity rewards the patient observer, as even the “plage” areas around sunspots are quite visible when carefully observed. The slow “boiling motion” of the tops of solar convective cells is also clearly visible… we observe from behind a shield, and warn everyone not to look at the Sun directly (or ever through an unfiltered telescope or binoculars).
Monthly First Thursday at 7:30pm: SW Florida Astronomical Society Monthly Meeting: Meeting is held in the Planetarium. Dedicated to promoting knowledge about and love of astronomy for people of all ages. Each month there’s an astronomical program, check www.theeyepiece.org for details. Short business meeting follows. Free to the public.
Our Planetarium Shows in Depth: June is “Solstice Month” at the Planetarium!
We show three different planetarium shows each day, and we have a live orientation to what you can see in our local night sky as the initial part of each show (this is our sneaky way of getting you dark-adapted!), followed by a fulldome planetarium “movie.”
12:00 pm – ***NEW*** Family-friendly show: “Phantom of the Universe: The Hunt for Dark Matter” (2017 release)
From riding the stream of relativistic protons racing through the world’s largest particle collider in Europe to up-close views of the Big Bang and emergent universe, to making the nearly mile-deep descent to an underground experiment in South Dakota, this fast-moving planetarium show is designed to immerse audiences in the many-sided search for dark matter. This show features narration by Academy Award-winning actress Tilda Swinton and sound effects by Skywalker Sound. [Medical alert: not for the easily disoriented; the proton-stream-ride is fairly “zoomy”]
2:00 pm – From Earth to the Universe (2015 release)
The start of this show from the European Southern Observatory: “The night sky, both beautiful and mysterious, has been the subject of campfire stories, ancient myths and awe for as long as there have been people.” A desire to comprehend the Universe may well be humanity’s oldest shared intellectual experience. Yet only recently have we truly begun to grasp our place in the vast cosmos. To learn about this journey of celestial discovery, from the theories of the ancient Greek astronomers to today’s grandest telescopes, we invite you to experience From Earth to the Universe. We see, through sparkling sights and sounds, the Universe revealed to us by science. Viewers can revel in the splendor of the worlds in the Solar System and our scorching Sun, then take off into the rest of the cosmos. From Earth to the Universe takes the audience out to the colorful birthplaces and burial grounds of stars, and still farther out beyond the Milky Way to the unimaginable immensity of a myriad galaxies. Along the way, the audience will learn about the history of astronomy, the invention of the telescope, and today’s giant telescopes that allow us to probe ever deeper into the Universe.” The show starts at a serene pace but picks up as we move out into the cosmos.
3:00 pm – “Distant Worlds: Alien Life?” plus OPTIONAL: “Spring Stargazing” or Potluck*
The night sky is a view of infinity. Does alien life exist out there? Nothing we can ask about the universe is so important for our understanding of the world. In this show we examine the conditions required for a habitable zone, starting the journey in our own solar system. Then we imagine a tour to some of the recently discovered exoplanets orbiting other stars in the Milky Way. What might be essential for life on distant moons or planets? We get to see scientists’ conceptions of the appearance of some of the distant worlds identified so far, and “best exobiologists’ guess” on what life on some of these other planets might look like, too!
This show is optionally preceded by “Spring Stargazing,” which will show you the main spring constellations and how to find your way around the night sky, or you may be invited to view a “potluck” show *see below).
*“Potluck” can be anything in our inventory, chosen to match the needs/wishes of the audience. That means if you come back several times during the month, you may see several different shows in this time slot, depending on the audience each day. A little spontaneity is not such a bad thing!
Did we mention ours is one of the few planetaria that are “guarded” by large live alligators? Here are Al and Allie, who are mates. They are our nearest neighbors. Al is almost 4m long (about 12 feet). Also pictured is one of our excellent volunteers, who runs the solar observing sessions on Fridays at noon. This was taken in January 2015. Al and Allie will sometimes bellow… Al’s bellow is deeper and involves water dancing on his back due to the vibrations.