With one more morning left in North Carolina we headed to the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill to visit the Morehead Planetarium & Science Center. The complex was built as a gift from John Morehead III, UNC class of 1891, and opened its doors in 1949. The GlaxoSmithKline Fulldome Theater is in the Morehead building, which also houses the Science Stage, classrooms, exhibits, the UNC Visitor Center and the Observatory.
We bought tickets for the Planetarium show “Earth, Moon and Sun.” Although geared towards 7-13 year olds, Lauris and Mikus thoroughly enjoyed it, laughing loudly and repeatedly at the antics of Coyote, a cartoon character adapted from Native American folk tales. With his help we explored the relationship between the earth, moon and sun, and even got a guided tour of the evening nighttime sky by the astronomer on duty. The boys have been more interested in the phases of the moon since the harvest eclipse moon last month, and this awareness has only increased since our visit. On the other hand, the one-year old mostly slept, as the theatre was dark and my lap warm…
After the show we took a look at the various exhibits in the lower level of the planetarium. The most famous visitors to Morehead were the US astronauts in training for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, including Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., Neil Armstrong, John Glenn and Alan B. Shepard Jr. among others.
A quick stop in the souvenir store later we were already headed out the door, anxious to get back to the hotel and start the next leg of our journey. The morning had turned cool and rainy, and so large sundial on Franklin Street threw no shadow. We took a look nonetheless, the task of explaining how it works harder when it’s not operational, and then we were off. The Planetarium is high on my list of places in the Chapel Hill/Durham area I would recommend to visitors, and we might return on our next visit to the region to catch one of the other shows.
* Morehead's programs include classes for adults and children, special courses for teachers, summer camps for children, afterschool programs, memberships, public viewings of astronomical events and lectures. It’s a good idea to call/check the website for scheduling information before your visit, as there are numerous shows aimed at a variety of ages, and on days when large groups visit shows can be sold out. Note for Roper Mountain Science Center members - Morehead participates in the ASTC Travel Passport Program, and so members can receive 2-for-1 admission to all regularly scheduled shows.