Adler Planetarium Puts the Universe at Your Fingertips

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Head to Chicago’s Adler Planetarium and prepare yourself for an out-of-this-world journey through our galaxy and far beyond.

No matter how long we spend lying in the grass and gazing up at the dome of the night sky, it’s hard to imagine a world outside of our own. We learn about stars and planets, galaxies and Milky Ways, but from where most of us stand, it’s hard to see anything but pinpricks of light and scattered constellations that glimmer from thousands of light-years away. What do these celestial bodies look like up close? How much of the universe is left to discover? Is there other life out there? Astronomers may have the answers to these questions and countless others, but outer space exploring isn’t just for scientists. Not everyone can find new planets or unearth the mystery of black holes, but we’re just as much a part of this endless universe that humans know so very little about. It’s time for all of us to start exploring —what or maybe even who— we’re sharing our interstellar existence with.

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Adler Planetarium: Your adventure awaits. Credit: Kelly Kennedy

Ready to begin your adventure into our galaxy and far beyond?

Look no further than Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. Home to everything from real moon rocks to flight simulators, Adler Planetarium is much more than a collection of planet pictures hanging on a wall. The museum has made an impressive effort to bring the universe to life for visitors of all backgrounds and ages, and this effort has solidified Adler Planetarium as one of the best astronomy museums in the country, if not the world. The key to their success?  Interactive exhibits that cleverly disguise learning as play. It would take a book to discuss all of these incredible exhibits in depth, so here’s a small preview of a few interstellar opportunities that simply can’t be missed.

Take a ride in the historic Atwood Sphere. See all the constellations that make a yearly journey across the Chicago sky when you climb inside the Atwood Sphere. Hailed as the oldest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, the Atwood Sphere has been used by everyone from astronomers to military tacticians. Today, visitors can enjoy a 10-minute adventure through the night sky that’s led by a knowledgeable tour guide who’s armed with a wide array of fun facts.

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The Historic Atwood Sphere has been used to explore the Chicago night sky since the early 1930’s. Credit: Christina Oddo

Catch a showing of Undiscovered Worlds.  Are we truly alone in the universe? Sit back and relax in the panoramic Definiti Theater while enjoying smooth narration and a visual journey that immerses visitors in the farthest reaches of the cosmos. Undiscovered Worlds takes viewers on a thrilling trip through the known universe and far beyond, exploring what features make a planet able to support Earth-like life and how scientists try to identify our potential neighbors.

Launch a rocket at Mission Moon. Learn about America’s race to moon through eyes of Jim Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13 and an Adler Planetarium trustee. Read Lovell’s heartbreaking rejection letter, then go on to discover how he persevered and eventually made it out of this world and onto the moon. In addition to the bodyweight rocket launcher, highlights of Mission Moon include the real Gemini 12, chunks of moon rock, and touching interviews with Lovell’s family as well as other men and women who made a huge difference in America’s journey to the moon, despite remaining firmly planted on Earth.

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Walking through “Mission Moon” is like taking a trip back in time. Credit: Kelly Kennedy

See the stars from inside the Great Pyramid. At Astronomy in Culture, discover how different people across the ages have used stars, planets and other celestial bodies in everything from burial rituals to calendars. Using the universe to explain the cycle of life and death is a human tradition that’s united even the most diverse societies, and Astronomy in Culture poignantly explores this tradition. In addition to simulated stargazing from inside the pyramids, visitors can learn how to use their hands as sundials, take apart an astrolabe (an old-fashioned measuring tool) and learn about the ancestors of modern astronomy tools.

Checking these activities off your list is just the start of an incredible experience at the planetarium. Adler offers countless other amazing shows in addition to Undiscovered Worlds, and is home to a host of other engaging and inventive exhibits like Our Solar System, Through the Looking Glass and The Universe: A Walk Through Space and Time. Worked up an appetite? Grab lunch at Café Galileo, where you can enjoy crisp paninis and fresh salads as you sit outside and admire breathtaking views of the pristine Lake Michigan and Chicago’s famous skyline. Once you’re ready to call it a day, end your interstellar journey with a stop at the Adler Store. Here you’ll find an incredible assortment of souvenirs that includes everything from standard gifts like mugs and books to outlandish presents such as necklaces made of meteorites and freeze-dried space food.

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Cafe Galileo gives visitors an unparalleled view of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. Credit: Kelly Kennedy

Beyond the Exhibits

Your adventure through space and time doesn’t have to end once you’ve finished perusing all the incredible displays and activities that have put Adler Planetarium on the map. No matter your age or interests, the planetarium is proud to offer a variety of experiences and programs for space explorers who haven’t quite had their fill.

For Adults: On the third Thursday of every month, Adler Planetarium gives intergalactic exploration a rather adult twist with its themed “Adler After Dark” events. On these evenings, museum-goers can hang out with old friends or mingle with new ones as they enjoy live music, an array of food and beverages, and access to the entire museum.

For Kids: If they can’t stop talking about their visit to the planetarium, imagine how thrilled your kids will be when they find out they can spend a few weeks of summer there. At Adler Camps, kids of all ages will have a blast building model rockets, programming robots, using telescopes, launching balloons and much more. The programs seek to combine science and creativity in a way that allows children to hold the universe in the palm of their hands.

For Everyone: Loosen your limbs and learn to relax as you embark on a flowing journey during Yoga Under the Stars. Taught in the planetarium’s Grainger Sky Theater, this Vinyasa Flow class allows astronomy enthusiasts to gaze at constellations as they push up into Cobra or balance on one foot as they attempt Half Moon. The class fee includes access to the museum afterwards.

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Visitors wander through the “Our Solar System” exhibit, which overlooks Lake Michigan. Credit: Kelly Kennedy

Adventure is Out There

To understand the universe is to better understand yourself. Learning about outer space is an incredibly humbling, awe-inspiring and fascinating journey to embark on, and it’s an adventure that takes place on a seemingly endless frontier. Delving into the world of astronomy may seem a little daunting at first, but with the help of Adler Planetarium, you’ll be suiting up and preparing for blast off in no time. Plan a trip to the planetarium, and start exploring today.

By Christina Oddo

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