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Welcome to Peterson Planetarium

Loretto A. Langley Charitable Trust Award!   ***     In the News  ***     Cool Facts!  
About our Photography 

Fall 2017 Planetarium Shows

Schedule your own show with Peterson Planetarium by clicking on our Scheduling tab up above.

O.J. Peterson History Series

About the Planetarium

Peterson Planetarium was named for Oscar J. Peterson, ESU chair of the math department from 1928-1963.  Dr. O.J. Peterson was responsible for adding the planetarium to the new Science Hall, which opened in 1958.  In 1959, Dr. George Downing became the first director and his first student planetarium operator and lecturer was Kenneth Ohm.  Ken is seated beside the newly installed Spitz A-2 Star Projector that was used from 1959-1994.

Ken Ohm operating Spitz A-2                  Ken Ohm operating the new Spitz A-2 Star Projector in the newly opened planetarium in 1959. Three rings of
                 continuous bench seating, covered in red vinyl, encircled the operator and machine. The planetarium is located
                                            in the sub-basement of Cram Science Hall. Image courtesy of Kenneth Ohm.

      Peterson Planetarium is an educational outreach branch of the Science and Math Education Center. The planetarium is a teaching facility for campus classes in space science and other courses that schedule sessions in this unique audiovisual theater. It seats 38 under a 24-foot dome, which serves as a projection screen. We have the Spitz 512 star projector that was installed in 1996 and renovated in 2014. To this supplement Earth-bound perspective of the night sky, a hemispherical mirror projection was added in 2014 to provide full dome audio video programming. A supplemental digital projector allows for interaction via the Internet or displays shows via DVDs. It is administered through the Departments of Physical Sciences with funds provided by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Programming at the Peterson Planetarium serves a variety of community and University audiences.

Peterson Planetarium holds two regular series that are open to the general public and are completely free of charge.
  1. On the second Saturday of the month, live shows of the night sky are presented accompanied by a full-dome program chosen from a variety of themes such as astronomy, Earth science, biology, history, and mathematics.
  2. Every Thursday evening from 6:30 to 7:45, a documentary series is presented on the history of U.S. space exploration. This history series is told through actual NASA footage and documentation taken from the Johnson Space center and compiled here on campus to walk the audience through the first signs of rocket development to the Space Race and beyond.
We also host presentations for campus students and K-12 schoolchildren, available to be scheduled on weekdays. Reinforce science standards in space science, earth science, biology and mathematics in your K-12 class!
To review/preview our available shows, visit our inventory HERE. Schedule a show now by calling 620-341-5636 or by going HERE.
Reviews by Teachers:
"perfect match to our 6th grade curriculum" - for Losing the Dark
"the light pollution short show connected with our students" for Losing the Dark
The planetarium is located in room 031, Science Hall, on the west side of the Emporia State University campus. Entrance is from Merchant Street parking or with school buses, use Kellogg Circle stopping just beyond Plumb Hall. Remember that while reservations are not necessary, seating is limited and to guarantee entrance to the shows.

Peterson Planetarium provides ESU students with employment opportunities to work on live show production and video presentations.  Now hiring ESU students  - if interested, contact Dr. Aber at 620-341-5636 with a resume of experience and letter of interest.


 Night Skies with Mark Brown, VIPP

Mark Brown the charter member of our Volunteers in Peterson Planetarium (VIPP). He has contributed presentations, custom shows, operator training, and photographs to Peterson Planetarium and now Night Skies. In other words, Mark is a very important person to Peterson Planetarium!

 In the News...

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 Cool Facts...

  • See where the International Space Station (ISS) is right now with the Astro Viewer (
  • Exoplanets are planets orbiting stars that aren't our own sun. Thousands have been identified, but only a portion of these lie within the 'Goldilocks' zone of their star system, or the habitable zone in which liquid water may be found on the surface. These are the ones we're most interested, for these are the places we're most likely to find extraterrestrial life outside of Earth. Click Here for a handful of the hundreds of 'Goldilocks' Exoplanets. Bellow are links to some videos about each planet mentioned in the slideshow.
  • NASA's first teacher in space, Sharon Christa McAuliffe, never got to fulfill that very role. She perished on January 28th, 1986 on the Challenger. However, her lesson plans survived as remnants of the six lost space science demonstrations that had been planned to be filmed while in orbit and released once she returned to Earth. These lesson plans have been restored and interpreted, and are now available to fulfill McAuliffe's famous words, "I touch the future, I teach." Find out more Business Insider Science - 1/2016 (
  • We are now offering a list of opportunities for educators and students alike for each month. Check it out HERE to find webinars, contest opportunities, and much more!
  • On the 20th of January, a paper was published by Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown to confirm the existence of a ninth planet in our solar system. Like Neptune and Uranus, this 'Planet 9' has been identified by it's gravitational influence on it's surroundings. While it hasn't been visually spotted yet, it's estimated to be 700 AU (astronomical units) from the sun on average and a single year seems to take 10,000 to 20,000 Earth years.
  • With a possible new 9th planet in the news and Pluto only demoted to the status of a 'dwarf planet' in 2006, the definition of a planet has been put into our minds. So what makes a planet? Three things:
    • It must directly orbit the sun. It can't orbit something that's orbiting the sun... those are called satellites.
    • It must be large enough to be spherical (like a ball). Asteroids aren't very large, that's why they look like potatoes.
    • It must produce enough gravity to clear it's orbital field. This means it must either pull objects down to it's surface, like a meteorite, or catapult them away like a 'gravity assist' in the movie 'The Martian'. This is where Pluto failed the test... there are too many objects in it's 'personal bubble' that it doesn't 'own'.

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About our photography and more...

  • Star Party; Tallgrass photos were taken by Katie Simmons and Jim Aber
  • Mark Brown is an award winning night sky photographer who provides Peterson Planetarium with technical support and show scripts for live shows and images illustrating phenomena to view in space.  He lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania that is a city in the south central part of the state, sandwiched between Interstates 76 and 81. We are featuring his photography with...
  • Matt Seimears
  • International Space Station Pass - SPOT THE STATION! Sign up to receive notices about when you might see the International Space Station (ISS) streak across the night sky (Go to Here) The alerts will give you the day, time, and path of ISS, so you can watch for 1-4 minutes of this phenomenal orbiting manned space science mobile home!
  • 2015 is the Year of the Dwarves or as Dr. Schenk puts it.... Ceres and Pluto Get Their Due! For more, see HERE.
  • Ceres craters were featured in the Astronomy Picture of the Day, 18 February 2015 Check it out!
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Loretto A. Langley Charitable Trust Award!

The Loretto A. Langley Charitable Trust made a generous contribution to the Peterson Planetarium for children’s video programming in December 2014.  This Trust was established by Loretto A. Langley, a secondary education teacher from Lyon County, Kansas.  Miss Langley taught for 40 years and retired in 1966.  She began her career at Lowther Junior High School and ending at Emporia High School where she taught business classes.
She served on the Olpe State Bank board of directors for over 25 years.  She was a member of many organizations and professional groups including; Delta Kappa Gamma, an honorary professional teachers’ organization, the American organization, the American Association of University Women, the Business and Professional Women’s Club in Emporia, and the Retired Teachers Association. Miss Langley was a member of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the Sacred Heart Altar Society.
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See Mark’s information about what you can see in the night skies here.
Last Updated 2017, August 10