Here you will find information on times and dates the planetarium is open, connections to school activities to do before and after your visit, and information about this volunteer outreach effort.
About Our Planetarium
Built with the new building in 1994, the 30 foot diameter dome of the UW planetarium provides a unique space in which students can explore the night sky. The original building included a Minolta MS-8 starball. The starball is a precisely constructed optical/mechanical system that projects an accurate picture of the night sky as viewed from anywhere on earth.
In 2005, a grad-student led UW Student Tech Fee proposal provided $90,000 worth of new audio and video equipment to allow for more dynamic planetarium presentations.
In 2009, we began working with Microsoft’s World Wide Telescope team to upgrade the planetarium to a fully digital dome system. Completed in early 2011, this upgrade transformed the dome into an 8-million pixel digital display. When combined with the World-Wide telescope interface, this allows for a truly interactive and immersive planetarium experience.
In 2015, another UW Student Technology Fee proposal led by graduate students provided almost $50,000 in upgrades to the planetarium, including new projectors, computers, and software. This upgrade has allowed the UW planetarium to keep up with the rapid development of digital planetarium software, both open source and private, and enables it to serve the UW community for years to come.
Technical details about the digital upgrade can be found in this preprint.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is the planetarium located? The planetarium is on the second floor of the Physics/Astronomy Auditorium, room A220 at the end of the hall. You can find the building on a campus map here.
When do you offer shows for groups? Show are offered for groups on Fridays during the academic quarter between the hours of 10am and 1pm. There is a request form for group visits below.
When do you offer shows for individuals or small groups (<5 people)? There are typically three public shows on the first Friday of the month at 5:30pm, 6:30pm, and 7:30pm. Shows are free, but advance registration for these shows is required due to the limited capacity of the planetarium. The ticketing link is usually sent out a week before the show, and tickets will sell out within a day or two. You can find the ticketing link on our Facebook page, our Twitter account, or adding yourself to the planetarium mailing list.
Do you offer shows on weekends? Unfortunately, we do not offer shows on weekends as campus buildings are locked on Saturdays and Sundays, making the planetarium inaccessible to volunteers and visitors.
What is the cost for a planetarium show? All shows at the planetarium are free! If you enjoy your group visit, or one of the public shows please consider donating here.
How long is a planetarium show? Shows are typically 45 minutes in length, but with time for questions at the end they may run closer to an hour.
What is the seating capacity in the planetarium? The planetarium can seat 40 people. Group reservations, including chaperones and students, are not to exceed this number as it is our fire code capacity. If you have a larger group, please consider scheduling two separate shows
Where should I park on campus when visiting the planetarium? All personal vehicles must pay to park on campus. To find parking on campus first visit one of the parking Gatehouse locations, let them know your destination, and ask what the nearest available parking to the Physics/Astronomy Building is at that time of day. Note that some parking lots may be full later in the day, so we do not recommend a specific lot here. More information on parking on campus can be found here. The closest Gatehouse to our building is the West Gatehouse. Parking is $3 per hour before 4pm, with a maximum daily rate of $15. After 4pm parking costs a flat rate of $5.
What should I do if my preferred date and time is not on the group visit request form below? Some dates and times during the current quarter may not be on the form because they are already booked. Shows are also scheduled on a quarterly basis, so in general we will not schedule a group visit more than 3 months ahead of time unless under special circumstances. Please contact the planetarium coordinator directly with further questions.
Do you offer shows during the summer months? Due to limited volunteer availability outside the academic year we do not offer regular summer shows or group visits. We also generally cannot schedule shows more than 3 months in advance of the requested date. Please contact the planetarium coordinator directly with further questions.
How do I become a volunteer? See the FAQ for volunteers below, or contact the planetarium coordinator to see when the next planetarium training session will be held.
Where can I or my group eat lunch on campus before or after a show? There is food-court style dining at the Husky Union Building (HUB), though during peak lunch hours it may be difficult to find seating for a large group. See here for more dining options on campus.
What other activities do you offer for groups before or after the planetarium show? Because we are completely volunteer run we do not have the capacity to offer or help plan any activities on campus for groups outside of the planetarium show. Please plan your campus visit accordingly.
Before requesting to book a show, please read through all the information below, as well as our FAQ (above).
Planetarium shows are given on a purely volunteer basis. We gladly serve UW groups, K-12 groups that are studying astronomy, and public groups (such as astronomy clubs or scouts). The planetarium is open to these groups on Fridays during the academic year with presentations starting between the hours of 10am and 1pm, on a first-requested, first-served basis. All dates and times available for the current quarter are listed in the drop down menu below. If your preferred date and time do not appear on the drop-down menu below, it is likely because that time slot is already booked. Unfortunately, we do not offer any activities outside of the planetarium show itself. Shows have no fee but donations towards the upkeep of our planetarium are gladly accepted. Click here to donate online.
Shows are generally about 45 minutes in length, and the planetarium can seat 40 people. If your group is larger than 40 people please make separate requests for shows. The planetarium is handicap-accessible, although it’s difficult for visually impaired students to receive the maximum impact since the simulation is extremely visual in nature.
Schedule a Show
To arrange a show for your class or group, fill out the online planetarium show request form below. Note that fields with * are required.
Information for Volunteers
- Tips on Making Your Shows Accessible to People with Disabilities
- Calendar for planetarium volunteers (wiki login needed)
Frequently Asked Questions For Volunteers :
How do I become a volunteer? Volunteers must have a suitable working knowledge of astronomy and attend a planetarium training session (held on a quarterly basis) before being able to give planetarium shows. Volunteers can be UW students or community members. For more information on volunteering please email the planetarium coordinator. Upcoming training sessions (held in the planetarium–PAA A220):
Tuesday, April 18th at 4pm (BasicTraining)
Thursday, May 4th at 5pm (Basic Training)
What is the volunteer commitment? At least one Friday per quarter, you will be asked to give planetarium shows. Shows are an hour long, but beginner presenters will likely want to schedule 1-2 hours of additional prep time for each of their shows. Contact the planetarium coordinator to set up individual or group practice time on the calendar.
How do I get trained to operate the planetarium? A couple times per quarter, we will have a training session so that you can learn to use the system and find out the capabilities of the planetarium. Otherwise, you can take the ‘Astronomy Outreach’ course—currently Astro 270, where Ana Larson will train you in astronomy outreach techniques, including how to give planetarium shows.
How can I find more information about the planetarium software? The World Wide Telescope software can be downloaded for free to your own computer, so you can practice using it at home.
Who would I be presenting to? Our primary audiences are K-12 groups visiting us on field trips, although we occasionally host community colleges and groups of adults from UW. On the first Friday of each month we also put on free shows for the public, and these events have been wildly popular.
When can I use the planetarium for practice? The planetarium is available for practice most weekdays during normal work hours (8am-5pm). Before using the planetarium for practice you will need to check with the planetarium coordinator to make sure your requested practice time is available. If you would like access to the planetarium calendar yourself to sign up for practice time, please see the planetarium coordinator for the password and access information.
Where do I get the key for the planetarium? The planetarium key is housed in the Astronomy Department main office (3rd floor of PAB). The office is open from 8am-5pm, but closed from 12pm-1pm for lunch. You can check out the key for practice time or a for show during the hours the front office is open, but you must return the key when you are finished. Keys may not be held overnight or over the weekend, unless under very special circumstances.
We’re located at the corner of 15th Ave NE and NE Pacific Hwy, in the University District. The planetarium is located on the second floor of the Physics/Astronomy Auditorium in room A220 at the far end of the hall. Click here to go to the UW campus maps page.
If you are driving from:
- Eastside: Take 520 W to Montlake Exit. Left at 2nd light (on to Pacific). Come to 15th, and make a right. The Physics/Astronomy Buildiing is on the corner. If you are bringing a bus, you can let the students off at the stop on 15th.
- North or South: I-5 to NE 45th Street exit (University of Washington). Take 45th St. East to 15th. Make a right on 15th. Follow this to the intersection with Pacific. If you are bringing a bus, you can let the students off at the stop on 15th (right before Pacific).
If you are bringing a bus, you must fill out a bus parking request form prior to your arrival. After you have submitted this form you will be contacted with further instructions about your bus pick-up and drop-off location and where the bus should park while you are on campus. For more information, feel free to contact UW Transportation Services at (206)-616-8710, or use the following link: https://www.washington.edu/facilities/transportation/park-event
All other vehicles must pay to park on campus. To find parking on campus first visit one of the Gatehouse locations, let them know your destination, and ask what the nearest parking to the Physics/Astronomy Building is at that time of day. More information on parking on campus can be found here. The closest Gatehouse to our building is the West Gatehouse.