On Sunday, December 30, you can come to the Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium to see musical laser shows and interactive programs.
But beginning Monday, December 31, you won’t see anything at the planetarium until the completion of the new Science and Mathematics Complex, scheduled for 2017.
“This will be the first time the planetarium has gone dark since a fire closed it in 1978,” said Kevin Williams, director of the planetarium and associate professor of earth sciences and science education. The planetarium first opened in 1966; after the fire, it reopened in 1980, thanks to many generous donors, especially Whitworth Ferguson Sr. and his family.
The Western New York community will miss the planetarium. More than 10,000 visitors attend yearly, enjoying shows featuring seasonal changes in the night sky, kids’ shows, music and laser shows, and special events such as the popular 2012: Prophecy of Doom, debunking end-of-the-world predictions. The planetarium also hosted Mars Madness, an open house that highlighted Curiosity’s successful Mars landing in August 2012, and a screening of the launch of the last space shuttle in July 2011.
While the planetarium is closed, planetarium staff will hold telescope viewings and present talks about topics related to astronomy. Activities will be posted on the planetarium’s website.
Thanks to a recent million-dollar gift to the new planetarium, visitors who return in 2017 will enjoy a spectacular experience because the new facility will incorporate complementary analog and digital projectors. The new facility’s capabilities will make it a resource for many disciplines. Williams said, “Besides astronomy, we will be able to use the planetarium to visually represent materials for almost any topic."