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Welcome to Peterson Planetarium

Star Party Tonight (10-7-2019)


Fall 2018 Planetarium Shows


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

Star Parties!

This year, we'll be holding small star parties to look at visible planets and the moon. Dates will be determined by what phase the moon is in, and how many clouds there are. Every star party will begin at dusk, and will be announced the day of at 4 in Hornet Announcements, and by noon on our Facebook (Peterson Planetarium at Emporia State University), and an email will be sent out to everyone on our Star Party Email list by noon also.

To join the Star Party email list, email us at with the email you want to receive the notification to.
You will only receive emails when there is a star party, or upon the cancellation of a star party.

O.J. Peterson History Series

Planetarium History

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. Every other Saturday, 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 Tuesday evening from 6:30 to 7:45, a documentary series is presented on the past, present, and future of NASA. This history series is told through documentation of NASA's feats and a comprehensive compilation of a variety of space exploration topics, from the beginning of the space race to the Mars rovers, the detection of gravity waves, 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.


Cool Facts...

  • See where the International Space Station (ISS) is right now with the Astro Viewer (
  • Interactive Tour of ISS (
  • You can sign up to get emails on when the ISS is visible from your location by signing up for spot the station.
  • 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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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