The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is set on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in North Carolina, and is one of the oldest and largest planetariums in America. The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center was opened in 1949 to train astronauts in celestial navigation from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs and has since seen more than 7 million visitors pass through their doors.
Designed by the same architects whose claim to fame was the Jefferson Memorial, the Morehead Planetarium, and Science Center contained one of the largest working Copernican orreries in the world until the late 1990s. Today the Planetarium houses a GSK Full Dome Theater, a Science Stage, an array of interactive exhibits, and classrooms for educational programs. The Morehead Building also features the UNC Morehead Observatory and the UNC Visitors Center, and there is a beautiful iconic Sundial at the entrance of the building on Franklin Street.
Built as a gift from John Motley Morehead III in 1891, the Morehead Building and Planetarium has been used to train astronauts for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, including those astronauts that walked on the Moon like Neil Armstrong. The Morehead Planetarium features a 68-foot wide and 44-foot tall dome, can seat up to 240 people and features two different projection systems, including a full-dome digital video (FDV) projection system for a super-high-definition image resolution, surround-sound, and totally immersive planetarium experience.
The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center also offers a range of outstanding educational programs, classes and workshops for adults and children, public viewings of astronomical events and public lectures, afterschool programs and summer camps for children, and special courses for teachers.
The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center features an array of permanent and temporary exhibits which are free to the public. Permanent exhibits are open during the Center’s regular hours, and special exhibits are open on the weekends.
The History Hallway is an excellent exhibition that showcases all the astronauts that have trained at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. The exhibit honors the more than 60 astronauts that used the Center to train in celestial navigation through a fascinating array of artifacts, objects, and photographs.
‘Highway of the Planets’ displays Joseph Caldwell’s unrivaled devotion to the study of the night sky and how it laid the foundation for astronomy at UNC. Joseph Caldwell was a professor of mathematics and the first president of the University of the North Carolina.
‘Where American astronauts first met the stars...’ tells the story of UNC's Morehead Planetarium, how is as donated as a gift by John Motley Morehead III and how it laid the foundation for the observational teaching of astronomy at the University. It also highlights the distinct privilege of being able to train more than 60 NASA astronauts between 1959 and 1975.
Temporary exhibits at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center include ‘Zoom In: Science at the Extremes’ – a fascinating exhibition that explores science at the extremes of size and scale, and ‘The Ancient Carolinians,’ which explores the lives of the settlers of what is now known as North Carolina. This amazing exhibit tells the story of how these early settlers lived, how they used various tools and objects and includes an array of 10,000-year-old artifacts found at the Hardaway archaeological site.
‘Water in our World’ takes visitors into the world of water, how and why water is cleaned, how it is delivered, and why it has become the world’s most precious natural resource. Visitors can explore different ways to make water "flow" through interactive and hands-on models and discover how much water is used for normal, everyday activities such as flushing a toilet or washing your hands.
The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center presents a range of educational programs for visitors of all ages. Programs for adults and teenagers include the Carolina Science Café, which explores current science research, Starry Nights, which takes a deeper look at celestial objects, and Skywatching sessions where visitors can observe the night sky.
The Carolina Science Café offers free, current science awareness programs on the first Wednesday of every month for adults that explore the science topics making a national and international headline. The Starry Nights program is designed to teach adults and older teens how to identify the constellations, planets, and stars with expert guidance from an astronomy educator.
The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center offers a variety of exciting special events throughout the year, ranging from Discovery Classes, Family Science Days, and planetarium shows to Science Symposium, guest speakers, and LEGO-palazzo.
Discovery Classes are interactive, hands-on learning experiences designed specifically for school groups, while Family Science Days offer a series of fun activities for the whole family. Live star shows on the Carolina Skies led by a Morehead educator can be enjoyed in the Morehead Planetarium throughout the year. The STEMville Science Symposium is a half-day science conference for children in grades four through seven to explore different types of STEM careers.
The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is located at 250 E Franklin Street in Chapel Hill and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm and Sunday from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm.
The annual UNC Science Expo is a signature event that showcases the wonders of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The Expo is a free, family-friendly event held every year that boasts over 100 splendid exhibits with riveting demonstrations, interactive experiments, laboratory tours, stage performances and more.
250 E Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, Phone: 919-962-1236