The James S. McDonnell Planetarium of the Saint Louis Science Center

The James S. McDonnell Planetarium of the Saint Louis Science Center (HM2LXT)

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N 38° 37.898', W 90° 16.261'

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Since 1963 this iconic structure has been St. Louis' Gateway to the Stars to over 300,000 visitors a year. Established and first operated by the City of St. Louis, the Planetarium merged in 1984 with the Museum of Science & Natural History to become the first phase of the Saint Louis Science Center, a part of the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District.

[Captions, from left to right:]
Construction on the Planetarium began in 1960, as the Space Race with Russia was in full swing. At the same time, across town at McDonnell Aircraft, America's first manned space capsules were being fabricated.

The Planetarium's concrete shell was complicated to create, requiring complex forms lower down and concrete blown into place higher up. The entire shell, no more than three-and-a-half inches thick, sits on twelve external pedestals.

The Planetarium's first star chamber seated 420 and was dominated by the 16,000 pound Goto L-1 Projector, capable of projecting over 8,000 stars and the planets, sun and moon under the 60-foot domed projection screen. It took Japanese technicians six months to install the complex instrument.

A major renovation of the Planetarium in 2000 allowed the installation of an 80-foot projection dome and the Zeiss MK9 Universarium. Under this, the largest planetarium



dome in North America, over 9,000 stars can be cast, with flexible seating to even allow for occasional sleep-overs and dining under the stars.

The Planetarium's hyperbolic paraboloid shape, designed by architect Gyo Obata, suggests the orbits of comets and the arcing flight of rockets. In 1966 it also tempted mischievous architecture students from Washington University to rig a ribbon and bow around the building as a prank...and a beloved St. Louis holiday tradition was born.

The Planetarium was built on the former site of the Mounted Police station and stables, which dated to 1894. The $1.2 million Planetarium project was part of a 1955 bond issue for city-wide civic improvements.
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HM NumberHM2LXT
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Date Added Thursday, October 17th, 2019 at 5:01pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)15H E 737547 N 5720566
Decimal Degrees-38.63163333, -90.27101667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 37.898', W 90° 16.261'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 37' 53.88" N, 90° 16' 15.66" W
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Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling North
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