Strasenburgh Planetarium celebrates its 50th with renovations

Aug 28, 2018

Credit Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

The Strasenburgh Planetarium is turning 50 years old this year, and it's celebrating with some renovations.

Kate Bennett, CEO of the Rochester Museum & Science Center, says the planetarium will be closed beginning Sept. 4 for those renovations, which will include new, moveable seats and carpeting in the Star Theater, accessible restrooms and an updated lobby.

"I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the milestone of a 50th anniversary than to close it. Close the planetarium and make very vital upgrades."

She says 50 years ago, the Strasenburgh was state of the art; it was the first venue to use a computer to control its projection equipment in 1968.

But times have changed, and technology has moved forward -- something that Julian Goldstein, the co-CEO of Rochester-based optics manufacturer Navitar, noticed.

"It bothered me in recent years that the planetarium had kind of fallen behind and we saw that because we were selling optics to the planetarium industry. And we saw what other people were using, what other people were doing and the exciting programming they had available to them."

Navitar has donated two fisheye projection lenses for the new Star Theater.

Funding for the project comes primarily through donations, as well as a$500,000 state grant secured by Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle.

Steve Fentress, director of the planetarium, says this will expand the programs and shows offered.

"We'll have topographic models of every body in the solar system for which a topographic model exists. We'll leave the solar system and visit exoplanet systems, which will be accurately modeled with the latest data."

RMSC selected Evans and Sutherland's Digistar 6 as the projection system for its Star Theater upgrade, which will be a full-dome projection system.

They hope to reopen the planetarium by the end of the year.