Shiras Planetarium is the only fully operational planetarium within a two hundred mile radius of Marquette, serving a large region of the Upper Great Lakes. Since our doors first opened in 1965, hundreds of thousands of students ranging from lower elementary to university, community members, and visitors to our area have come to the Shiras Planetarium to be entertained and educated. The Shiras Planetarium offers daily programs to schools from across the U.P. and weekly programs for the public and special groups. We serve a valuable and unique need of the people of the Upper Peninsula.
The Shiras Planetarium opened in the spring of 1965 after money through the National Defense Act was acquired to purchase a star projector. Once the money for the star projector was secured, all that was necessary was a building to house it. The Shiras Foundation graciously funded this project as an addition to the newly built Marquette Senior High School.
Originally, the planetarium contained a Spitz A3P Optical-Mechanical class star projector. Over the years, more equipment was added and the planetarium served the community in its basic function to educate people in the sciences. However, with over 25 years of use, the Spitz machine was falling into disrepair. In the late 1980’s, it was decided that a new star machine would be preferable to spending tens of thousands of dollars to refurbish the A3P. So, in the years between 1991 and 1992, a new Minolta MS-8 star projector, a computer automation system, and many more projectors were installed.
For the first time, the Shiras Planetarium took advantage of computer technology to control over 20 different projectors of various design and was able to offer shows which paralleled larger planetariums and enthralled audiences in an educational setting. In fact, at this time, some people labeled the Shiras Planetarium as the “finest equipped high school planetarium in the country.” However, as often happens with advances in technology, media, and educational research, by 2004 we found ourselves behind current trends.
To maintain the great reputation of the Shiras Planetarium, it was decided to install a new Konica Minolta MediaGlobe-Lite full dome, color, digital star projector along side the Minolta MS-8. This made the Shiras Planetarium the first in the world to have these two star projectors working in tandem together! We no longer needed slide projectors or special effects projectors which cleaned up the theater. We moved to utilizing digital media. Best of all, we still had a very nice star field using the MS-8, and we could create immersive scenes that transported our patrons throughout the cosmos using the MediaGlobe.
In December of 2016 the MediaGlobe stopped working and it was determined that it could not be fixed. The Shiras Planetarium was left with only the MS-8 star projector for shows and events. We have been forced back to operating similarly to how we did in the 1990s or prior. We are only able to project the night sky on our dome and use a regular classroom projector to entertain guests. MAPS began fundraising in early 2017 to replace the full dome system.
In May of 2017 the Shiras Planetarium was closed for the addition of a handicap accessible entrance as part of our the new auxiliary gym addition at Marquette Senior High School. It re-opened to the public in January 2018 with a brand new entrance available to guests. Fundraising continues for replacement of the projector. We are also in need of new chairs, as the current seating is original and has been failing. We recently had to remove 4 seats in order to fix other seats in the room. We are also finding some glitches with our lighting and sound system which is over 13 years old. We are working on building funds to keep this space thriving in our community for years to come. See our donation page for more details.
In addition to providing great shows, the Shiras Planetarium continues to be an active member of the community by sponsoring a diverse schedule of activities for the community. We collaborate with the Marquette Astronomical Society, the Seaborg Math and Science Center, and the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum, and appear regularly in local media sources. Our continuing mission is to be a comprehensive community resource and cultural center for the entire Upper Peninsula to use.