Digital Projection Fundraising Project

Stars have guided mankind through history. From ancient travelers to the Space Race and continuing to today’s understanding of weather and climate, we look to astronomical patterns and their correlation to us. The educational focus of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) makes the Shiras Planetarium a valuable component for today’s learners. 

Shiras Demographics/History 

In May 1965, the Shiras Planetarium opened and was dedicated to the advancement of natural science and the educational enrichment of the citizens of Marquette. This was made possible through the generosity of the Shiras Institute and the National Defense Education Act. Over fifty plus years, the Planetarium has served over 300,000 people reaching throughout the State of Michigan. Distinguished astronauts have visited and motivated students to be “Star Blazers”. NASA has donated and loaned Moon Rock samples to encourage interest in Space Discovery. The Planetarium, the only one in the Upper Peninsula, has provided inspiration through the years integrating science and entertainment in a unique educational model. 

Needs Assessment 

The Planetarium, through the generosity of the Shiras Institute, the L.G. Kaufman Endowment Fund and the Marquette City Commission, received a new mechanical projector in 1992. Visitors could see the current night sky and changes throughout the year. Movements of the Sun and Moon were also visible with this mechanical projector. Over time technology became obsolete and this machinery lost functionality. Parts are no longer made for the MS-8 Minolta Opto Mechanical Star Projector and advanced digital technology has replaced the obsolete mechanical projectors in many planetariums. Shiras Planetarium had a digital projection system in addition to the mechanical, but it stopped working in 2014. The most current need is to replace this system so we can once again bring visitors to explore the observable universe and so much more that is available with today’s digital technology. 

Cost and Financials 

The largest obstacle to overcome is the cost to bring high quality digital projection back to the Planetarium. The optimal package would include two digital projectors for the best 360 ̊ field, computers and control systems along with software and content. The price range for this, if broken into phases for individual items, would be $250,000 to a completion total of around $600,000. In 2019, the MAPS Board of Education approved $24,000 to purchase a Kvant Laser system with Pangolin Beyond software. This has been primarily a fund-raising tool combined with keeping audiences interested in the Planetarium. There are additional educational components for students to create content similar to processes used by professionals in the laser industry. Reviving the interest in programming at the Planetarium has taken energy and creativity. The current director has more than tripled the annual income with the laser shows and private events. Fundraising efforts have yielded $100,000 from Shiras Foundation with $7,500 from private sources to date. The Planetarium will never be a huge revenue maker given its seating capacity and rural location, but the privilege of having this facility available while still operating with a net income annually afford our community and students an educational opportunity that would not otherwise be available. 

Plans to Implement 

Goals to get the Shiras Planetarium back into the digital age include finding interested donors and grant opportunities to partner with Marquette Area Public Schools to reach the required financial need. Once we have received pledges and donations, we will formally bid out the projector replacement. Once the vendor is selected, the build-time is generally between 9 and 12 months. Upon completion of installation and training, the Shiras Planetarium and Marquette Area Public Schools will offer FREE programming to all school groups who visit during the school day as appreciation for support and encouragement for learning. 

How can you help? 

Marquette Area Public Schools and the Shiras Planetarium are seeking interested parties who wish to be part of the continued education of Science combined with Technology and the Arts as a primary focus. Your donations are tax deductible and will be recognized in the permanent records of the Board of Education. 

Three levels of donation will be honored on a special donor wall at the Shiras Planetarium. Donors giving $2500 will be considered “Red Stars”. Donations of $5000 will be “Gold Stars” and any donation over $10,000 will be considered “Blue Stars”. Donations of other amounts will be listed on our website. All donations will help!

For additional information or inquiries, please contact William Saunders, Superintendent or Rebecca LaBrecque, Shiras Planetarium Director as identified below. Donations can also be made on the Shiras Planetarium website by visiting

William Saunders – Superintendent

Email: [email protected]    Ph: 906-225-4200     

Becky LaBrecque – Shiras Planetarium Director     

Ph:906-458-0032                      Email: [email protected] 

Blast from the Past!

Blast from the Past! Shiras Planetarium Laser Light Show Series

Kickoff the new decade by remembering music hits from the past

Introducing a new laser show series at the Shiras Planetarium! “Blast from the Past” is all about celebrating the music hits we remember from different eras! We have mixed together the content we own from our Laser Fantasy collection and put in some of our own unique twists! Kick off the new decade with a glance back to the past paired with state of the art laser lights! Help the Shiras Planetarium celebrate being in service since 1965! 

Please note: These shows are not meant to be a full showcase of that era of music, but instead a pairing of the laser content we have from those eras. Genres vary and some mixes are quite eclectic! Come in for a truly unique experience you will see nowhere else on the planet! 

Flashback to 1960s

Take a journey back to the 1960s with this show featuring some icons of the time! Hear hits from the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin and more! Look back at some of the most iconic rockers of all time!

Flashback to1970s

Our tribute to the 1970s includes artists like Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Bob Marley, the Doors, Black Sabbath, and Queen! We celebrate some of the same artists we feature in our 1960s show, but use different tracks! Come and hear great 1970s rock mixed with some amazing laser lights!

Flashback to 1980s

At the Shiras, our most popular 80s shows are all about Prince and Michael Jackson! This show mixes the best of those shows with some Bob Marley, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, and Rush! It is an eclectic mix of some great tracks! Come in and celebrate some icons of the 80s! 

Flashback to 1990s 

This show is a look back to the 90s Alternative scene with a few other surprises mixed in! Hear hits from artists like Nirvana, Green Day, AC/DC, Metallica, Prodigy, Foo Fighters, and more! This hard hitting show is sure to leave you remembering power of the 90s! 

Flashback to 2000s

Our look back to the 2000s era will leave you ready to dance! Celebrate that House/Pop/Dance vibe of that time with artists like Lady Gaga, Daft Punk, Outkast, Black Eyed Peas, MGMT, Deadmau5, Kaskade, and more! 

Flashback to 2010s

You’ll be dancing in your seat as you remember hits from artists like Deadmau5, Daft Punk, Skrillex, Avicci, One Republic, Chainsmokers, Calvin Harris, and Major Lazer! Come see some of our most popular tracks and celebrate these hits of the 2010s era! 

Flashback to the 2010s1/4 at 8:30pm
Flashback to the 2000s1/18 at 8:30pm
Flashback to the 1990s1/17 at 7:30pm
Flashback to the 1980s1/18 at 7:00pm
Flashback to the 1970s1/25 at 7:00pm
Flashback to the 1960s1/25 at 8:30pm

See our full schedule and buy tickets at

‘Tis the season for Lights and Giving!

The Shiras Planetarium has been busy over the last year and the holidays are in full swing! We have some great shows this month, including three chances to see the holiday lights indoors! Check out Holiday Magic, our family friendly holiday themed laser shows! You can see our full schedule at!

In the past three years the Shiras Planetarium has done some amazing things! We purchased our own laser system, one of the best in the country for a small planetarium! We have been showing content we purchased from Laser Fantasy out of Seattle and the reviews have been great! We also tried our first LIVE music and laser show in October and it was a huge success! Shiras Planetarium technician and laserist Jacob Phillips rocked his first freelance debut behind the booth! We are looking for bands and musicians who want to collaborate with us! Reach out for more information!

Laser Show at the Shiras Planetarium
Laser Show at the Shiras Planetarium

We have also added Virtual Reality to our planetarium. We are working on ways to tie this to our laser system and will be showcasing that in the coming year! Our students are helping work on some cool integrations of virtual reality into the teaching and learning in our classrooms! The planetarium has become a research facility for that work! We are very excited to continue growing that aspect of our organization.

Our primary focus for December is to try to get some donations rolling so we can reach our goal of ordering a new digital projection system for the Shiras! The Shiras Institute has pledged $100,000 and we have collected about $5000 in other donations for this project. MAPS is committed to spending at least $100,000 on this project. High quality systems start around $250,000 and go up from there. A very high quality system is around $550,000. We have hopes of creating a space that can be utilized for high quality astronomy education but also be utilized for teaching other types of content. We want to help foster young entertainment professionals and film makers. We would love to put that half million dollar system in! But we would need help from donors to make it happen. All levels of donations help! You can learn more about how to make a donations at

Inside planetarium showing Minolta MS-8 and Media globe with new ADA accessible doors visible in the back.
This shows inside the Shiras Planetarium in early 2018. The digital projector shown on the left in this picture stopped working in 2015 and has since been removed. The MS-8 star projector which was purchased in 1992 is still being used today.

The future is bright at the Shiras Planetarium! We have many more new things up our sleeves too! With your help we can make this facility the best small planetarium in the country! Thank you so much to all who have supported us thus far! We have been educating and entertaining the Upper Peninsula community since 1965 and we have no plans to stop! We hope you have a happy holiday season! Make plans to visit your local planetarium!

The Box Office is Open!

We reopened to the public on February 7 with the two weeks before that being a “soft” launch and it has been a whirlwind! We have served over 20 different groups! The calendar for March is almost full and April is filling quickly! We are so thankful for the widespread support we have felt from across our community.

One obstacle we have faced has been sold out shows! People have had to line up for a half hour before the door opens and stand in line, waiting for one of the 59 seats inside. And showing up with your kids for a show on time, only to find out you can’t get in is a pain. It is a great problem to have! We are thrilled to see the excitement. And honestly Marquette- you have not seen anything yet! We have so many new and exciting opportunities planned it will blow your mind! We can’t wait to be able to show you!

In an attempt to help ease the stress at the door we have added online ticketing. You can visit and pay for your ticket online prior to the show. You will also find the link on our Facebook event posts. Once you’ve purchased your ticket online you can arrive 10-15 minutes prior to the start of the show and take your seat. We will have staff on hand to help guide seating. We will require that you move down and fill in rows to leave room for others arriving after you.

Screenshot of the online ticketing website.

We are hoping this new option will allow more families to plan their busy lives and include the Shiras Planetarium in the mix! You can view our schedule at

The Beginning of a New Era for the Shiras Planetarium!

Welcome to the new Shiras Planetarium website! I am Becky Simmons, the new director and I plan to use posts on this page to keep the public updated on what is happening in our space! We have many new and exciting projects planned, such as a “Music Under the Stars” series, yoga under the stars, planetarium shows on all different days of the week at many different times, and so much more! It is exciting to kick off a new era in an establishment that has been a part of the greater Marquette community for over 53 years!

The Shiras Planetarium has a bright future but is faced with many challenges. Our fulldome projection system stopped working in December of 2016 and we have been fundraising for a replacement ever since. Our chairs are original from 1965 and we recently had to remove some recently just to fix others. Our lighting system is aging and has fluctuations and glitches we cannot control. Our Minolta MS-8 star projector was recently maintained and is in good working condition, but is 26 years old and has a projected lifespan of 30 years. A new full dome projection system is between $350,000 and $500,000 for a high quality cove mounted system. New lighting and chairs will cost all of $50,000. And looking forward, we will need over $400,000 in the next five years to replace our star projector if and when it fails. The financial obstacles are huge for a planetarium in a public school. We need strong community partners to keep this gem in the community and thriving for years to come.


Shiras Planetarium new entry doors

Phase one of our plan was the addition of an ADA accessible entrance to the planetarium which was completed in December 2017. This makes it so much easier for all people to visit our space. We also gained a beautiful new neighbor, the MSHS Auxiliary gym. The last group of kindergarteners in the planetarium ended their visit with a quick game of chase the director around the gym before getting back on their bus! Having this space next to the planetarium and easy to get to opens the doors to many new types of activities the Shiras Planetarium and Marquette Senior High School can offer the community.


Phase two of our upgrades includes new seating, a full dome projection system, and new LED RGBW lighting. We will also install new carpet, fresh paint, and a few minor remodeling touches. MAPS is committed to partially funding the project. But our financial needs are over $500,000. That is out of the budget. We will need financial partners and donors to pull it off. In upcoming posts I will talk about all the new events we will be able to do with this new technology and furniture and how we plan to increase our offerings to the public!

Hope to see you under the stars soon! Check out our schedule for show details!