The design of the Shafran Planetarium building allows its exterior to function as an astronomical instrument. Nighttime visitors can use the building's chamfered roof to locate Polaris, the North Star, around which all other stars in the sky appear to rotate.
The building's titanium-coated, stainless-steel outer covering sparkles with stars created by embedded fiber-optic lighting. This system emits a subtle glow without contributing to the light pollution above University Circle. Inside, the domed planetarium theater offers comfortable, stadium-style seating for 85 and is wheelchair accessible.
In July 2010, the Shafran Planetarium re-opened after a brief closure to install state-of-the-art equipment from SkySkan. The new digital projection system expands the planetarium's capabilities, allowing our astronomers to take you on virtual trips through the universe and beyond. SkySkan's DigitalSky 2 software far exceeds the capabilities of a classical planetarium projector. Guests can see astronomical bodies draw trails as they move through the sky, while planets zoom in with full motion and 3D texturing as they move to the foreground. The Museum also employs SkySkan's LED lighting system, which boasts the lowest power consumption for this type of lighting.
The Nathan and Fannye Shafran Planetarium features the Leonard Krieger Visual Effects System: Definiti by Sky-Skan with support from the Leonard Krieger Fund of The Cleveland Foundation and the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission, The Honorable John Kasich, Governor and former Governor Ted Strickland. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History recognizes the Ohio General Assembly and the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission for their support.
Astronomy experts present live shows that explain current celestial phenomena and include time for your astronomy-related questions. Find out more about our latest planetarium shows.
The Ralph Mueller Observatory houses a 10 1/2-inch refracting telescope built by the Warner & Swasey Co. of Cleveland in 1899. The renowned J.A. Brashear Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a division of American Optical Company, ground the telescope’s optics. Warner & Swasey Co. originally donated the telescope to Western Reserve University (today Case Western Reserve University). It was located on the roof of the university’s physics building for 61 years.
The Museum acquired the telescope in 1960 with funding from the Murch Foundation. Generous financial contributions from Cleveland businessman Ralph Mueller made the telescope’s installation at the Museum possible.
The telescope rests on an internal support pillar on a block of solid concrete. This construction prevents floor vibrations from reaching the telescope. A 19-foot-diameter dome built by Astro-Dome of Canton, Ohio, houses the telescope. The dome is motor-driven and can be rotated 360 degrees. It has a double shutter, which permits greater sky exposure.
The observatory provides an excellent vantage point from which members of the public are able to observe astronomical events. For example, when Mars made its closest approach to Earth in 50,000 years in 2003, more than 750 visitors viewed the red planet through the telescope on a single evening.