"The Adler Planetarium" Top 5 Page for this destination Illinois Things to Do Tip by traveldave

Illinois Things to Do: 139 reviews and 248 photos


Situated on Northerly Island which juts out into Lake Michigan, the view of Chicago's skyline from the Adler Planetarium is one of the best. Founded in 1930, the Adler Planetarium is the oldest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere and the oldest one in existence today.

The Adler Planetarium was founded by Chicago businessman and philanthropist Max Adler. He wanted to invest part of his fortune to create a public facility that would benefit future generations of Chicagoans. After learning of the optical projection device recently invented by Walther Bauerfeld that could project images of the night sky onto the inner surface of a dome, he was impressed enough to travel to Germany with his wife and architect to study the projection device and return to Chicago with plans to build a planetarium.

The planetarium building was designed by architect Ernest Grunsfeld, Jr. It was constructed of red granite between 1929 and 1930. It is in the shape of a 12-sided polygon, called a dodecagon, and topped by a copper dome that is about 90 feet (27 meters) tall. After several expansions over the decades, the Adler Planetarium now has about 145,500 square feet (13,517 square meters) of space.

The planetarium itself can project images of the night sky as it appeared millions of years ago, and how it will appear millions of years from now. It also features three full-size theaters and one of the world's most important collections of antique astronomical instruments, navigational tools, time-keeping devices, and engineering tools. It also houses a fine astronomical history museum that contains a moon rock brought back by the Apollo 15 astronauts, and the telescope through which William Herschel first sighted the planet Uranus.

The planetarium's various exhibits teach visitors about the evolution of the universe over 13,000,000,000 years, from the big bang to present day, and the interaction of the sun, planets, moons, comets, and asteroids in our solar system. Other hands-on exhibits allow children to experience the sensation of space exploration and travel. And the Gallaxy Wall is the largest, most complete picture of the Milky Way ever created.

The Adler Planetarium has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark.

Directions: The Adler Planetarium is located at 1300 South Lake Shore Drive, just southeast of downtown Chicago.

Review Helpfulness: 1.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Sep 30, 2012
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