Manitoba Museum’s Planetarium Celebrates 50 Years


Winnipeg, MB (May 11, 2018): The Manitoba Museum is celebrating the Planetarium’s 50th anniversary this year. On May 15, 1968, thanks to the generosity of the Saiyde and Samuel Bronfman Foundation, the doors to the Planetarium star theatre were officially opened by Lieutenant Governor Richard Bowles – before the the Manitoba Museum, just after the March opening of the Concert Hall, and before the first moon landing. The Planetarium was a part of the Manitoba Centennial Centre complex built in celebration of both Canada’s centennial in 1967, and Manitoba’s in 1970.

Over the past five decades, the Planetarium has seen some significant changes, both in terms of the state-of-the-art of science and technology, and in how that science is presented to visitors. Originally, the Zeiss projector – knows as Marvin – was the star of the show, recreating the night sky with amazing precision. However, Marvin, the star projector, can’t show anything in the sky that ancient sky watchers hadn’t already seen thousands of years ago. To show visitors what modern astronomy has discovered required a major update. Small-scale video projectors were added in the 1990s, but they only covered a portion of the domed screen. In 2011, the Planetaruim upgraded to the DIGISTAR full-dome projection system by Evans and Sutherland.

“DIGISTAR allows the Planetarium to take visitors throughout the universe and share the latest discoveries in ways that were once only possible in our imagination,” says Scott Young, Manager of the Planetarium and Science Gallery. “We can show the “wow” of the universe and inspire everyone to look to the future.”

The Manitoba Museum’s Planetarium has all kinds of space fun planned for visitors of all ages to mark this incredible milestone. Laser shows are coming back to the Planetarium throughout the spring and summer. There are family-friendly matinee shows during the day and longer louder evening shows – check the website ManitobaMuseum.ca/lasers for details.

Matinee laser shows start on May 12, 2018 (Manitoba Day/Free Day), and evening shows begin on Saturdays the following weekend (May 19, 2018). Beginning June 28, 2018, the Planetarium goes on a Thursday/Friday/Saturday evening schedule presenting several laser shows each night. Matinee laser shows are priced the same as regular Planetarium shows. Evening shows are $15 per seat per show ($12 for Museum members). Tickets are available at the box office and will be available online soon.

What is a Laser show? Planetarium staff take some awesome music – classic rock, electronic, retro – play it really loud and shoot lasers at the dome in all sorts of amazing patterns, from hypnotic abstract patterns to animated characters. That’s a laser show: part music listening party, part light show. They remain one of the most-requested programs at the Planetarium.
What is a laser? Lasers make a special kind of light, and it interacts with our eye and brain differently than normal light. Our eyes, brains, and perception have evolved to deal with sunlight, which uses most of the rainbow of colours. Lasers emit only very specific colours of light, without all the other colours mixed in. This creates laser colours that appear very pure and otherworldly. Moving that laser beam very fast overloads the speed of the eye and brain and forms continuous images, producing spirograph-type patterns, abstract imagery with rapid colour changes, and even animated figures.

How loud is a laser show? The music is LOUD – about as loud as a dance club. Ear plugs will be available for purchase at the Box Office for $1 a pair for anyone who wants them. Children under 16 years old will receive earplugs at no cost. While short-term exposure for adults is unlikely to cause permanent damage, the developing ears of younger children are more at risk. Evening laser shows are not recommended for young children. Matinee laser shows are generally a mix of different songs and are played at a more family-friendly volume.

Other amazing activities planned for the 50th-anniversary celebrations. Posters of old planetarium shows and Planetarium artifacts are on display. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is presenting concerts on July 3 at 7 pm and 9 pm inside the dome. There will be opportunities to stargaze on the Plaza and do hands-on space-inspired activities in the Explore Science Zone of the Science Gallery. The Planetarium is also launching a Speaker Series that reveals some of the amazing undertakings happening in our province in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Visitors will be inspired to dream the big dreams that shape our modern world.

  • Chasing the Northern Lights – May 12 • 1 PM
  • The Black Brant Rocket – May 26 • 2 PM
  • The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program – June 16 • 2 PM
  • Maples Collegiate High Altitude Balloon Challenge – June 23 • 2 PM