About the Planetarium

planet "at" louisville.edu | 502-852-6664 | University of Louisville | Louisville, KY 40292

Vision

To provide a friendly, comfortable, hi-tech, multi-media, learning venue for the presentation of educational and entertaining programs supporting astronomy and space science education, the arts, humanities, and sciences.

Mission

The planetarium serves a variety of audiences, including pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students, college students and the general public. Its goal is to advance understanding of the universe in which we live, address the National Science Education Standards, state level curriculum science standards, post secondary education, and serve as a public resource for astronomical and space science information.

Design and Purpose of the Facility

The Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium is designed to provide a unique learning environment primarily for astronomy and science education. State-of-the-art multi-media projection systems extend this capability to serve a variety of disciplines and the facility further functions as a flexible venue for events, conferences and meetings.

Structural design elements are based upon a six pointed star reflected in concrete scoring and overhead trusses throughout the facility. A circular, sixteen-foot high wall punctuated by eight-inch vertical slits, inspired by ancient Stonehenge, encloses a large courtyard leading to the entrance. Large metal letters affixed to the wall identifies this as The Gheens Science Hall, in recognition of the Gheen's Foundation that provided major funding for the project.

A large lobby allows placement of live, interactive learning exhibits in science and astronomy, displays of art and technology and a prominent donors wall. The semicircular multipurpose room adjacent to the lobby provides flexible seating for forty-four and serves as instructional space for classes, workshops, and teacher education programs.

Theater Equipment and Design

A massive concrete truncated cone structure is the prominent design feature, with the words Rauch Planetarium repeated in silver letters along the uppermost circumference of the tower, honoring Rabbi Joseph Rauch for whom the original planetarium was named in 1962. This structural envelope encloses a fifty-five foot diameter hemispherical dome, tilted 12 degrees, which comprises the planetarium theater. The theater is designed for highly accurate presentations of astronomy, surrounding the audience with a 360 degree projected view of the night sky. Over 4000 stars can be projected from the Spitz 1024 projector manufactured by Spitz Inc.

One hundred and sixty theater style, unidirectional seats, corresponding to the tilted dome visually thrust viewers into the simulated starfield. The Spitz Electric Sky Immersavision Video Panorama™ system permits realistic projections of planets and celestial objects within a 200-degree horizontal by 60-degree vertical field of vision. The incorporation of three dimensional computer modeled imagery, 360 degree panoramic slide and video projection in concert with an advanced digital multi-channel 15,0000 watt surround sound system combines to create a truly awesome virtual reality experience supporting not only astronomy but a variety of arts and sciences and edutainment programming.

The Audio Visual Imagineering Omniscan Laser Projection System™ provides a dazzling array of effects and colors that illuminate astronomical/scientific concepts in ways that only full-color laser images can communicate within a full-dome (360o x 180o) environment. With Ominiscan Laser projection, constellations come to life through animation, black holes fill the entire dome, and spiraling 3-D matter astound each viewer.

History of the Planetarium

February 18, 1957 - The greater Louisville community mourned the death of Rabbi Joseph Rauch, leader of the Adath Israel Congregation for 44 years. Dr. Rauch had provided outstanding leadership in the spiritual, intellectual and civic activities of Louisville for many years. His wisdom and influence were felt particularly through his service to the boards of trustees of the University of Louisville and of the Louisville Free Public Library.

1957 - A decision was made to honor Rabbi Joseph Rauch by building The Rauch Memorial Planetarium at the University of Louisville. Over the course of the next four years, contributions to the project endowment were made by the family and friends of Rauch, as well as by the University of Louisville, the Fiscal Court of Jefferson County, the City of Louisville Board of Education, and the Board of Education of Jefferson County.

June 3, 1961 - Groundbreaking ceremony. Hartstern, Louis & Henry were the architects for the project and Wehr Constructors were the general contractors. Taking part in the groundbreaking ceremony were Lt. Gov. Wilson W. Wyatt, chairman of the citizens committee that made the memorial possible; Dr. Philip Davidson, president of the University of Louisville; and Rabbi Herbert S. Waller of Congregation Adath Israel.

April 17, 1962 - Dedication. The Rauch Memorial Planetarium was dedicated as a dynamic, educational tribute to Rauch, who was described as "a man who always had his feet firmly planted on the ground, but a man whose eyes were always on the stars." Mrs. Etta Rauch, the rabbi's widow, cut the ribbon at the planetarium's entrance. On hand to honor the memory of Rabbi Rauch were Wyatt, Stuart G. Levy Jr., president of Adath Israel Temple and Davidson.

Following the dedication, Dr. Laurence M. Gould, president of Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota delivered an inspiring lecture as part of the University of Louisville's distinguished lecture series. Gould, a prominent geologist, explorer and specialist on Antarctica, said: "Science, as old as man, has been the one continuous thread in the fabric of civilization. You cannot have either science or the humanities without the other". In a reference to Rauch, Gould also quoted an "old astronomer" as saying: " I have loved the stars too fondly to be afraid of the dark".

The Rauch Memorial Planetarium was built at a cost of $125,000, including equipment, and seated 80 adults or 100 children. The Rauch Memorial Planetarium was the first planetarium to be built in Kentucky and utilized the Spitz A-3P projection system.

1962-1997 - Provision of quality educational services. The Rauch Memorial Planetarium, under the leadership of Planetarium Director Tom Boone for 25 years until his retirement in 1989, provided educational programming to a variety of constituents:

  • Students in physics and astronomy classes at the University of Louisville
  • K-12 students from public and private schools in the greater Louisville area
  • Community and civic groups
  • The general public

 

In addition to planetarium shows, other program offerings included a highly successful NASA Community Involvement Program, celebration of special astronomical events, and "Music under the Stars". During the first year of the planetarium's operation (1962-63), nearly 23,000 individuals visited. Sixty-five percent of these visitors were students or special civic groups.

1975 - Planetarium equipment updated. The planetarium updated its star projection system from the Spitz A-3P projector to the Spitz 512. Additionally, Technical Service Corp. of Louisville installed a new, state-of-the-art sound system.

May-June 1989 - Planetarium continues to struggle financially but decision is made to keep it open. University of Louisville President Dr. Donald C. Swain announced that U of L could no longer afford the annual $50,000 planetarium operating budget deficit. The U of L Board of Trustees included no money to operate the Rauch Memorial Planetarium in its general fund budget for the next fiscal year. Shortly afterwards, Swain announced that the planetarium would remain open on a break-even basis.

1991 - Planetarium remodeled. Remodeling included new carpet, display unit installation, reupholstered seats, and interior painting.

1991 - Roving Astronomer Program formally established. This community outreach program (still in existence) provides astronomical education to school and camp groups unable to visit the Rauch Memorial Planetarium.

December 1991 - First meeting of the Planetarium Advisory Committee held. This committee was composed of community members and created to help develop a dynamic new vision for the planetarium.

May 9, 1992 - Thirtieth birthday celebration. The Rauch Memorial Planetarium celebrated its 30th birthday as a part of National Astronomy Day. The celebration included birthday cake design art competitions for area school children.

November 24, 1997 - Decision made to raze the Rauch Memorial Planetarium. The U of L Board of Trustees approved a plan to raze the planetarium to make way for a parking garage for the J.B. Speed Art Museum early in 1998. Plans were disclosed for the Louisville Science Center to fill the educational gap for school groups left by the closing of the planetarium.

November 25, 1997-December 11, 1997 - Community expresses concern about razing of planetarium. U of L administrators, city and county officials, the K-12 education community and local Jewish community leaders sought ways to find a suitable alternative to the current site of the Rauch Memorial Planetarium.

December 11, 1997 - Financial support for new planetarium announced. U of L President Dr. John Shumaker announced that the University of Louisville has received $1.6 million to support the building of a new planetarium. The Gheens Foundation, under the leadership of Joseph Stopher, pledged $1.1 million, with the City of Louisville and Jefferson County each committing $250,000. The new state-of-the-art planetarium will be located on the U of L campus near the new Speed Museum parking garage.

February 6, 1998 - Last presentation in the Rauch Memorial Planetarium.

March 28, 1998 - The Rauch Memorial Planetarium is razed. With the old planetarium gone, planning for the new Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium begins.

Spring 1998 - Architects chosen for the new Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium. The architectural firm of Louis and Henry of Louisville was chosen to draw up plans for the new planetarium and astronomy and space science center.