History of Stardome

History of Stardome

Stardome’s rich history began in 1948 when the Auckland Astronomical Society began fundraising for a public observatory in Auckland. By 1956 they had significant funds, including a substantial bequest from Mrs Edith Winstone Blackwell for the purchase of a telescope for public use. The Society formed the Auckland Observatory and Planetarium Trust Board to build on these initial funds and provide for the construction and management of a new observatory.

In 1960 One Tree Hill Borough Council provided a 21-year lease, which has been subsequently extended, for a site in One Tree Hill Domain which is where the Observatory and Planetarium operate from today. In March 1967 the Observatory opened without a Planetarium, as the Auckland Museum was operating a Planetarium donated by the Farmers Trading Company in 1958. The Planetarium at the Museum closed in 1989, allowing the Observatory the opportunity to build a replacement Planetarium. Fundraising was undertaken with a clear vision to provide the country with the best facility possible.

Major funding from the Lotteries Commission, the ASB Community Trust, a loan from the Auckland City Council and donations from the Auckland public raised nearly $3 million for the project. The new planetarium and associated facilities opened in February 1997 and remains the largest and most advanced in New Zealand.

The Zeiss star projector and panorama slide projectors were replaced in 2008 with a fully digitised system from Evans & Sutherland. The major fundraising effort also included upgrades and refurbishment of the seating and projection screen in the Planetarium. Stardome now provides the Auckland region and New Zealand with leading-edge planetarium technology coupled with expert personalised assistance from our team of astronomy educators and presenters.

In 2010 Stardome Trustees and Management embarked on an upgrade inside its premises building interactive displays and exhibits housing materials from space. The new foyer displays and exhibits were opened in September 2010 and added another dimension to our visitor experience.

In late 2016 Stardome underwent another significant upgrade with a refurbishment of the retail and reception areas and the installation of two new interactive displays. The History of Spacecraft is a 360-degree toy brick display and Space Tracker is an interactive 9-panel display where visitors can learn about the latest space exploration missions. Space Tracker is updated in-house every few weeks so our visitors are always up to date with what’s going on in the world of space. This most recent upgrade has added another dimension to our visitor experience.

Our mission is to teach and promote the science of astronomy and the Stardome is able to offer visitors the experience of learning together with entertainment in a planetarium environment. Visitors are also able to view the night sky through smaller telescopes guided by knowledgeable volunteers.

The Stardome experience takes an immersive simulated environment and turns it into reality. This is a unique combination, and Auckland is one of the few cities worldwide that are able to offer both methods in one facility.