The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center has been a staple of the Chapel Hill community for over 70 years. It was not only the first planetarium built in the south but also one of the first ten to be built in the country. What makes Morehead stand out above the rest is its state-of-the-art science center. Between the years 1959 – 1975, in the height of the space launch era, every astronaut from the major launches spent time training at the planetarium. The first of these astronauts to train in Chapel Hill was none other than Neil Armstrong. Today, the planetarium boasts a dome that fits 250 people and over 20 different unique programs for young children to adults that encourage education, exploration, and hands-on experimenting.
There are countless unique programs offered at the planetarium that will suit everyone in your family. From summer camps to fitness classes, these programs will keep the family busy year-round!
Starry Nights – This is exactly the kind of program guests would hope to find when visiting a planetarium. What sets Starry Nights apart from the rest is the incredible guidance given by the Morehead experts. Geared toward the specific season you’re currently in, the show will focus on everything from constellations, meteors, eclipses, and other phenomena.
Skywatching – Offered every month, enjoy a night looking at the actual night sky, while an instructor walks you through the visible constellations, plants, and more! All you have to do is bring yourself and they’ll provide the telescope.
Yoga Under the Stars – What could possibly be more relaxing than letting go and enjoying yoga underneath a perfect night sky? All skill levels, that are older teens and adults, are welcome to enjoy this unique yoga experience.
Science Summer Camps – Although canceled for the summer of 2020, the planetarium and science center offer summer day camps to kids of all ages. The camps range in opportunity and interest from learning about the stars to how to make a rocket ship launch. These camps are the perfect opportunity for your kids to have fun during their summer vacation while still exercising their minds.
UNC Science Expo – Perhaps the most anticipated annual event every year at the planetarium is the UNC Science Expo! UNC students, professors, and others from around the triangle are encouraged to sign up and share their experiments with the public. What makes this event truly special are all of the hands-on demonstrations that encourage the visitor’s interest in STEM. The event has over 125 different tents, 7 stages for performers, and tours of 11 different university labs.
Star Families – Perfect for families and private clubs such as scouts and 4-H clubs, this event is aimed toward children ages 7 – 12. Enjoy time at the planetarium with your kids while they learn all about the constellations and the families that make them up. Parents are encouraged to attend with their kids to make it a family learning experience!
LEGO-Palooza – This event has been a hit since beginning in 2005! Put on annually by the North Carolina LEGO Users Group, families get to enjoy a day walking around the planetarium, enjoying exhibits and structures of landmarks, cities, space, trains, etc. all made out of LEGOS. There are also stations around the exhibit that allow kids (ages 6 and over) to create their own LEGO masterpieces. As the popularity of this event has grown, so have the exhibits, food trucks, and more.
In 2007, Morehead introduced Zoom In Science at the Extremes, it’s first interactive exhibit. Since then, they have cultivated other exhibits that are also able to travel around the state, offering children and school easier access for hands-on learning. Currently offered at the museum is To the Moon and Back, which focuses on the Apollo 11 space mission, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Guests can enjoy life-sized examples and replicas of what it was like to be an astronaut on the mission!
Morehead at Home
While the doors of the Morehead Planetarium remain closed to the public, they are offering many opportunities for at-home learning and exploration!
- Morehead at Home – Sky Watching: Every Tuesday and Thursday, enjoy a night of star dazing with experts at the planetarium via Zoom. Those who join will learn about the current constellations visible in our area, along with what can be expected in the coming weeks. Younger kids are encouraged to participate in Tuesdays and teens and adults on Thursdays.
- 360 Video Premiere – The planetarium will be posting a new video every Friday that allows participants to enjoy some of their full-dome planetaria shows from the comfort of home. You can get the most out of these by using a VR headset, moving your phone from left to right or on your computer!
As the saying goes, who says learning can’t be fun? The Morehead Planetarium has balanced interaction and engagement, while still showcasing how intricately and precisely science works, perfectly. It is an ideal year-round activity for everyone in the family and will always be considered a staple in the Chapel Hill and UNC community.