A Visit to the Hayden Planetarium

On my way to attend the IPS Council meeting in Montreal, I took the opportunity to visit the Hayden Planetarium in New York at the American Museum of Natural History.


The American Museum of Natural History is massive, one of the largest in the world.  It’s earliest buildings date  back to 1874, and it is very much a classic museum with many beautiful dioramas and galleries full of dinosaurs.

The Hayden Planetarium was originally built in 1935, but completely replaced by a new facility in 2000.  And it is icon of modern architecture.  An enormous sphere that appears to float inside a glass cube six stories high.

The planetarium shows are run highly efficiently, every half an hour.  The 21m dome seats over 400 people, and they can move them in an out very quickly.

Hayden 01

They are currently running ‘Dark Universe’, which I had already seen. However I had never seen it in a planetarium with concentric seating. It was quite interesting to see how this version worked in the dome. The projection system has very good contrast and very good blacks, so images of galaxies and the night sky looked great. However, I did find the images lacked brightness and colour. Fortunately, I have heard they are about to undergo a major upgrade of their system.

Hayden 02

One of the first shows I saw at a planetarium was AMNH’s ‘The Search for Life’ narrated by Harrison Ford. This show really inspired me and opened my eyes to how immersive this medium could be. Since that time I had always wanted to visit the Hayden Planetarium, and I am glad that I have finally had the opportunity. The American Museum of Natural History is a magnificent museum, and the Hayden Planetarium an architectural wonder. A definite highlight of any visit to New York.

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