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Planetarium FAQ - General Questions

What is a planetarium?

In modern usage, the word “planetarium” is most often used to describe a theater built primarily for presenting educational and entertaining shows about astronomy and the night sky. Depending on the context, “planetarium” can also be used to describe the star projector itself, or even the entire building where the “star theater” is located. A dominant feature of most planetariums is a large dome-shaped ceiling, which serves as a projection screen onto which scenes of stars, planets and other celestial objects are made to appear.
Historically, the word “planetarium” was used to describe what we now call an orrery, which is a mechanical model of the solar system.

What is the planetarium dome made of?

At Rollins Planetarium, the dome is made of perforated aluminum panels. The tiny perforations, or holes, in the dome allow sound from audio speakers, and air from ventilation ducts, to pass through the dome surface. This means the speakers and ducts can be located above and around the outside of the dome, leaving the interior uncluttered.

Does the planetarium dome open?

No, a planetarium dome does not open. As a result, the planetarium is not affected by weather, as long as the power remains on for the projectors and other equipment.

What is the difference between a planetarium and an observatory?

Because both have domes and deal with astronomy, a planetarium is sometimes confused with an observatory. A planetarium is a ‘sky theater’ where special projectors create a simulation of the night sky on a dome ceiling. An observatory is a place where telescopes are used to view the actual night sky, so the dome of an observatory does open, unlike the one in a planetarium.

Will we see plants in the planetarium? (or fish or birds?)

No kidding—we sometimes get this question! The planetarium is sometimes confused with some other facility, such as an aquarium. Although the words may sound similar, there are no plants, fish or birds in the planetarium. (Unless you count the plants in the beautiful mural called “Astro Floral Fantasy” painted by artist Dale Cochran in our planetarium lobby!)