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July 17, 2023

Giant Leap for SB Museum of Natural History Planetarium

SANTA BARBARA, CA — The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (SBMNH) has made a dramatic improvement to the only public planetarium in the tri-county region. The Museum’s Gladwin Planetarium now features an Evans & Sutherland Digistar 7 dual-projection system with 4K resolution, a game-changer for the Museum’s guests, educators, and expert presenters.

“Like many lifelong Santa Barbarans, I remember coming to the planetarium as a child. It was magical—we could see the stars in the middle of the day!” reflects Krissie Cook, who has served the Museum’s Astronomy Programs in many capacities over the years. “Now the Museum is updating the magic with a high-resolution system that downloads the newest images from space. You can travel on an immersive journey through the stars that will leave you breathless with excitement.”

In addition to inspiring Museum guests with daily shows in summer and weekend shows the rest of the year, the planetarium serves visiting schoolchildren in grades K-5. The planetarium is also the regular site of astronomy labs for students of all ages, thanks to the Museum’s longstanding partnership with Santa Barbara City College and its School of Extended Learning.

Established in 1957 as a gift of Mrs. Harold S. Gladwin, the planetarium’s technology has changed many times over the years, first converting to a digital projection system in 2005. More recently, a major software upgrade gave the Museum access to a wider variety of programming and paved the way for today’s shows using the latest images from space. But the projection system was still lagging, until today.

The major upgrade—requiring a substantial investment of over $500,000—was made possible by a small group of deeply generous Museum supporters who value the profound importance of the Astronomy Programs offered by the Museum.

Since 2017, the Museum has embarked on a campaign of extensive infrastructure repairs and upgrades to prepare the century-old campus for future years of service. More improvements are on the way in the coming years, including a completely fresh update of the Space Sciences exhibit attached to the planetarium. The Museum places particular value on updating infrastructure related to space sciences, due to their two-fold value: looking outward to understand the universe, and inward to appreciate and adapt to our changing Earth.

Planetarium shows are included with Museum admission. Due to limited seating capacity, they are first-come, first-served. Visit sbnature.org/planetarium for details and sbnature.org/astronomy for more information about all the Museum’s space-related offerings.

Download Press Release (PDF)