- About Our Planetarium
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Group Visits
- Schedule a Show
- Volunteer Information
- Directions & Parking
- News & Support
Built alongside the Physics and Astronomy building in 1994, the UW planetarium is a unique space for students to explore the night sky. The dome is 30 feet in diameter and originally included a Minolta MS-8 starball, a precisely constructed optical/mechanical system that projects an accurate view 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 WorldWide 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 WorldWide Telescope software, now maintained by the American Astronomical Society, the fully digital planetarium 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. In 2020 UW graduate students were awarded a third STF grant for over $70,000 which was used to purchase the current set of projectors. These upgrades have allowed the UW planetarium to keep pace with the rapid development of digital planetarium software and will enable it to serve the community for years to come.
Technical details about the original (2009) digital upgrade can be found in this preprint.
What COVID precautions are currently in place? We ask all visitors to the planetarium to wear a mask at all times, and planetarium volunteers will be masked as well. The planetarium also contains a UV air filter.
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.
Is the planetarium handicap-accessible? Yes, the planetarium building is accessible. There is an elevator to the right of the pendulum that will take you to the 2nd floor, where the planetarium is located.
When do you offer shows for large groups? Show are offered for groups on Fridays during the regular academic quarter between the hours of 10am and 1pm. There is a request form for group visits below. We do not offer regular shows during the summer.
When do you offer shows for individuals or small groups (<5 people)? There are typically four public shows on the first Friday of the month at 5:30pm, 6:30pm, 7:30pm, and 8:30pm. Shows are free, but you must reserve tickets in advance for these shows due to the limited capacity of the planetarium. The ticketing link is posted on our Facebook page, usually the Sunday preceding the first Friday of the month.
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 via the Transportation Services website. 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. The closest drop-off locations near the planetarium are the 30 minute load/unload zones located on W Stevens Way NE. For information on disability parking see the disability parking webpage.
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.
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. Our shows are very popular, and tend to book up 1-2 months in advance, so please plan accordingly. 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.
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.
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 the Housing and Food Services webpage 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 the information below, as well as all 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 because that time slot is already booked, or unavailable. Please be aware that our shows are very popular and book up quickly. Please plan to book about 1-2 months ahead of your intended visit. 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.
- Tips on Making Your Shows Accessible to People with Disabilities
- Calendar for planetarium volunteers (wiki login needed)
- Volunteer FAQs
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 consult the UW Transportation Services site, or call them at (206)-616-8710.
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 via the Transportation Services website. The closest Gatehouse to our building is the West Gatehouse. The closest drop-off locations near the planetarium are the 30 minute load/unload zones located on W Stevens Way NE. For information on disability parking see the disability parking webpage.
Directions to the planetarium from the main garage
The main garage entrance is circled in red. From the garage walk along Grant Lane towards Stevens Way. Turn right onto Stevens Way and walk south to the entrance of the Physics and Astronomy court yard, you will see a large “bowling pin” sculpture. Enter the Auditorium which is the building on your left. In the building, go up the stairs by the pendulum to the second floor. On the second floor the planetarium is in room A220 near the end of the hall.
- September 2017: Astrobiology Mobile Planetarium visits Yakima High School
- May 2017: Outreach with the UW Planetarium
- November 2014: Portable planetarium takes astronomy to school
- March 2011: Perspectives article about the completed digital upgrade.
- December 2010: TechWeek preview of the nearly complete upgrade.
- January 2009: Planetarium featured in the UW Daily
Support the Planetarium
If you would like to make a donation that will help the planetarium, please review the fund description below and click here to be routed to a secure server.
Planetarium Renovation Fund: To support the cost of installing and updating materials in the Dept. of Astronomy’s Planetarium.