Planetariums and observatories welcome millions of people each year, showcasing everything from asteroids and stars to planets and distant universes. Yet these awe-inspiring buildings aren’t always at the top of architectural roundups, whether because they go unnoticed or because they aren’t always designed by renowned architects like the others museums.
Planetariums and observatories are worth a look, however, if only because they perform important research and often serve as educational centers for budding astronomers. Their architecture might surprise you; While there are plenty of sparkling domes on this list, we also featured historic structures and new versions of the traditional observatory.
Here are eleven interesting planetariums and architectural observatories in the United States that are sure to make you look skyward.
Gemma Observatory in New Hampshire
Conceived by Anmahian Winton Architects, this private New Hampshire observatory rejects the traditional dome in favor of an unconventional geometric shape that aims to mimic the rocky outcrops that surround the structure.
Inside, the building is clad in fir plywood to create a warm and inviting refuge from which to appreciate the stars. A faceted turret holds the main observation deck of the observatory, and the building also has an exterior observation deck at the rear.
Adler Planetarium in Chicago
Opened in 1930 as the Western Hemisphere’s first planetarium, the Adler Planetarium was built as a âclassroom under the heavensâ for popular astronomy education. The Art Deco structure has a stony, pink and gray exterior, few windows, and is designed as a 12-sided shape topped with a dome.
Today, the structure – which some compare to a spaceship – houses three different theaters, special exhibits, and an observatory. It is also located on the shores of Lake Michigan, offers stunning views of the Chicago skyline and has been one of the best places in town to see the 2017 eclipse.
Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin
Affiliated with the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, the Yerkes Observatory was established in 1897 on Lake Geneva in Williams Bay, Wisconsin.
The observatory houses a 40-inch single-lens refractor telescope and sits on a 77-acre park designed in part by John Olmsted, brother of renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The historic building is notable for its many arches and the way the design incorporated both a domed observatory and space for education and events.
Hayden Planetarium At New York
Operating out of the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, the new Hayden Planetarium is housed in the beautiful Rose Center for Earth and Space building. The previous planetarium was closed and demolished in 1997, and in its place is a 2,000-ton sphere that contains the planetarium.
The 87-foot-diameter sphere is housed in a 95-foot-high suspended glass cube, creating what some have called a “cosmic cathedral.” Two different theaters take visitors on virtual journeys, and the planetarium is also available for hire as an event space.
Burke Baker Planetarium at the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences
Located inside the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Burke Baker Planetarium boasts Digistar 6, one of the most advanced simulators in the world. The dome-shaped exterior not only looks good, it also allows visitors to get lost in high-resolution solar-powered videos.
Opened in 1964, millions of guests have flown over the universe, sailed through asteroid fields and explored planetary surfaces. The Dome Theater is also used to train NASA Space Shuttle astronauts in the identification of star fields.
Mauna Kea Observatory in hawaii
Sitting 13,796 feet in Hawaii, the white and silver Mauna Kea Observatory looks like what you’d expect from the the largest observatory in the world for optical, infrared and submillimeter astronomy.
The complex contains 13 high-tech telescopes near the top of the sleeping volcano, and more major telescopes are now located on Mauna Kea than on any other mountain peak.
Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles
A well-known Southern California tourist destination and the world’s most visited public observatory, the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles offers visitors free entry to its building and grounds.
The building includes the Samuel Oschin planetarium, an observatory and an exhibition space. It’s a mishmash of grandiose and monumental styles built using concrete, steel and copper domes. To manage this way to learn more about LA âMost recognizable and appreciated building. “
Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona
Located 56 miles southwest of Tucson, Arizona, the Kitt Peak National Observatory was selected in 1958 as the site for a national observatory after a 3-year survey that included 150 mountain ranges across the United States. .
The observatory offers daily visits which show buildings and telescopes, while night tours allow people to see the night sky through a 16-inch telescope.
McDonald Observatory in Texas
Located in the mountains of West Texas, 450 miles west of its administrative and research headquarters at the University of Texas at Austin, the McDonald Observatory boasts some of the darkest skies in the continental United States. .
These skies let the sparkling dome of the observatory shine, and the observatory welcomes around 60,000 visitors each year for parties and exhibitions.
Mount Graham International Observatory in Arizona
Originally erected in Milan, Italy, before being shipped to Arizona in 2002, the Large Binocular Telescope at the Mount Graham International Observatory can provide images ten times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.
It is the most powerful telescope in the world, and public tours are available by reservation in advance from May through October.
Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco
Located inside the California Academy of Sciences, one of our Kids’ Favorite Destinations in San FranciscoâThe 75-foot domed Morrison Planetarium is the world’s largest fully digital planetarium.
Although the architecture of the California Academy of Sciences building is unlike other planetariums and observatories, it is still an important structure. Architect Renzo Piano constructed a 2.5 acre ‘living roof’ for this green building that uses sustainable materials and has two domes that cover the planetarium and the rainforest exhibit.