So you want to learn how to operate a planetarium? Start at power up and then set up the first show. This is not the official website of Andrus, and has no connection with Andrus at all. The official Andrus site is here.

Celestia Programming in Celx

  1. Websites for the Museum, Planetarium, group visits, and schedule of operators. The planetarium has a 14-meter (46-foot) dome and seats 121, not counting the operator.
  2. Hardware, including
  3. Software and content:


  1. 12:30 p.m.: The Friendly Stars. Magic Sky is almost the same.
  2.   1:30 p.m.: The Sky Tonight changes on the equinoxes and solstices. Remember to replace the title slide.
  3.   2:30 p.m.: Solar System Safari replaced Larry in April, 2009.

  4. Shows at 3:30 p.m. and for school groups:

  5. Bad Astronomy: Myths and Misconceptions
  6. Daughter of the Stars
  7. Earth & Sky, retired when Ocean premiered on Friday, April 20, 2007.
  8. Follow the Drinking Gourd
  9. Holiday Rocket, by Marc Taylor
  10. Larry, Cat in Space/Fito, Gato en el Espacio replaced Our Place in Space and Viaje a los Planetas (Voyage to the Planets, recorded in Spanish) on October 6 and 29, 2006.
  11. Light Years from Andromeda
  12. Lunar Odyssey premiered on Saturday, January 5, 2008.
  13. MarsQuest, narrated by Patrick Stewart. Last shown Sunday, October 29, 2006.
  14. Ocean of Air, Ocean of Space premiered Friday, April 20, 2007.
  15. The Planets, narrated by Kate Mulgrew.
  16. Ring World
  17. River Through Time, by Marc Taylor
  18. Rusty Rocket’s Last Blast. Pre-Pathfinder.
  19. Larry, Cat in Space replaced Our Place in Space on October 6, 2006.
  20. Voyage to the Planets, live in English

How to get there (map)

Metro North

  1. Take the Metro North Hudson Division from Grand Central Terminal to Glenwood (33 minutes). For example, you should depart from Grand Central at 11:20 a.m. to get to the 12:30 p.m. show.
  2. Walk up the hill on Glenwood Avenue (your only choice).
  3. Make the first left onto Ravine Avenue.
  4. At the end of Ravine Avenue (one block), continue straight ahead through Trevor Park to the museum; you’ll see the white planetarium dome. The whole walk is ten minutes.

Old Croton Aqueduct

Aqueduct to Shonnard Terrace in Yonkers (between pillars 20 and 21), then down the hill to Warburton Avenue.


Water Taxi to Yonkers City Pier. Then Metro North from Yonkers to Glenwood, or walk north.


Although you may sometimes see a “birthday party group” come into the planetarium, they are visiting the museum as regular visitors. The museum no longer does birthday parties, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, or weddings. If they say that they should get special treatment, special seating, a whole show dedicated to them, etc., well, no. Feel free to say “happy birthday,” or point to Sirius if the birthday boy/girl is turning 9 years old.

Things to bring

  1. Museum ID card
  2. Eine kleine Nachmusik CD
  3. Maglite
  4. 3½″ transfer floppy

What I’ve learned

  1. Notes in red ink are invisible under the red console lights.
  2. A 48-minute show must end at 18 minutes past the hour.
  3. When setting up a show, load the removable media first (DVD, cassette tape, CD, laser disc, XP computer), since this can be done while the previous audience is leaving. Load the .CUE file last, since this makes you lose control of the cove lights and projectors. (The cove lights can be turned up but not down.) Set up the Zeiss in the middle.
  4. Zeiss white and blue lights on while audience enters and exits.
  5. If the audience enters to the first movement of Eine kleine Nachtmusik, they should exit to the fourth movement.
  6. Keep the stars in very slow forward diurnal motion (the “poor man’s twinkle”). Halt this motion for “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in The Friendly Stars and the StarDraw file in Our Place in Space.
  7. Effects are more pleasing when faded in rather than switched on suddenly (e.g., the orrery).
  8. If you sit in the console on the short stool during a prerecorded program, stand up every now and then to see how the audience is doing (or whether they are still there at all).
  9. Running through the nine planets is the astronomical equivalent of memorizing the capitals of the fifty states. An astronomer actually searches for correlations, not objects.
  10. Planetarium shows for children are variants of two basic stories:
    1. Talking animals fly around the solar system.
    2. A family with two children goes on a journey. The older child is always a girl, the younger, a boy.
  11. Planetarium clichés:
    1. The sunset.
    2. The blastoff.
  12. The Zeiss’s strength is to show positions, directions, and motions. Which way are we facing? Where is north? Which way is the earth turning (rotating, revolving)? When will Mercury arrive at its greatest elongation east? Where is the solar apex and antapex? Where is the center of the galaxy? Which way are we plowing through the cosmic microwave background? Which way is up?

Planetarium Manufacturers

  1. Carl Zeiss and its Historical Society. The company’s planetarium division is under Seiler Instruments, in PA. They are who Marc goes through for parts, service, advice, etc. Zeiss in Thornwood deals with microscopes and other instruments.
  2. Spitz
  3. Goto
  4. Minolta

Full-dome video: mid 2008?

There are several different manufacturers and several different systems. Exactly which one is used is still up in the air, since the designs keep changing and advancing. Most of them treat the dome or dome fraction as a single image and rendering computers put images wherever you want them. Resolutions can be quite high: the Hayden’s system is six overlapping video fields, each producing (I think) SXGA resolution, and that is no longer the best in the world. Off-the-shelf systems can exceed the Hayden’s in resolution and brightness. Manufacturers are Zeiss, Goto, Sky-Skan, SEOS (e.g. V-Dome), Barco, Evans & Sutherland, and Minolta.

Nearby planetaria and organizations

  1. The Hayden Planetarium has occasional live shows in the dome.
  2. New York Hall of Science in Flushing, Queens has a Digital Starlab system that projects a computer’s screen through a fisheye lens onto a dome.
  3. Newark Museum, New Jersey
  4. Novins Planetarium, Ocean County College, Toms River, New Jersey
  5. High school planetaria in Suffern and Thiells, Rockland County
  6. Northeast Bronx Planetarium
  7. Schenectady Museum, Schenectady, New York
  8. Rochester Museum and Science Center, Rochester, New York. The Strasenburgh Planetarium seats 225 with a dome diameter of 65 feet. Their Zeiss Mark VI comes up out of a pit, projects 9,000 stars, has 20 dimmable constellation outlines, and can zoom in on Jupiter and Saturn. Unfortunately, it was installed in 1968 and looks like a giant ant from space, or the dark, derelict Russian space platform in Space Cowboys. The cardinal point lights are permanently mounted on the walls, like EXIT signs, so the audience always faces the same direction (south). Their video projector has enough resolution to display an entire web page legibly. Steve Fentress, director.
  9. Stamford Museum & Nature Center, Stamford, Connecticut
  10. Vanderbilt Museum, Suffolk County
  11. Westchester Amateur Astronomers
  12. Russell W. Porter founded Stellafane.
  13. The interactive planetarium of the future.
  14. The Montauk Observatory has a 20-inch Meade.

Planetarium software

  1. Celestia and its documentation are free.
  2. Bisque has a “3-D solar system” function to view the solar system as a whole. Not as elegant as Celestia, but with a more standard interface.
  3. Digital Universe Guide (PDF) and Partiview User’s Guide (PDF) from the Hayden Planetarium’s Digital Universe
  4. Stellarium


  1. Long Beach, Long Island astronomy teacher with continuously updated website of current sky events.
  2. Man Conquers Space, based on the Collier’s series.
  3. Surprise! by Leslie Fish
  4. Nearest stars, rotatable.
  5. Leo
  6. J-Track satellite tracking
  7. Photo of SMART-1 impact on the Moon.
  8. Is Pluto a planet?
  9. Milky Way map and NY Times article
  10. Messier45 for objects outside the Solar System
  11. Sky & Telescope
  12. Rocky Mountain Planetarium Association
  13. Arabic:
  14. Local supercluster animation
  15. Signs for front door (elaborate and simple), back door, lintel (Yonkers, New York—Latitude 41° North), our table at NEAF:
  16. Right ascension and declination. Vinny is working on it.
  17. Overtaken by the dawn in Shakespeare


First two by Michael Goldfarb on an Olympus Stylus Epic, Saturday, October 22, 2005, 2:30 p.m. Mark is executing a series of SPICE LoCate commands while AUTO DISABLE is in effect. Others by Ann McDermott, Sunday, June 11, 2006.

  1. looking into camera, 1013 × 675
  2. looking at DOS computer, 1142 × 712
  3. red console light, 2272 × 1704
  4. Lila, 2272 × 1704
  5. Why isn’t the Zeiss sun lighting up? 2272 × 1704
  6. Grandma Dot and Lila, 1704 × 2272
  7. Sunday, December 31, 2006
    1. Blue Zeiss
    2. Console
  8. Zeiss, Sunday, January 7, 2007, 2000 × 3008
  9. Zeiss, line drawing from manual. Looking south, north celestial pole at the zenith, vernal equinox on the meridian. 907 × 1031
  10. World’s first planetarium projector at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. Photo by Frank Wortner.
  11. Montauk Observatory at Theodore Roosevelt County Park. September 7, 2007.
    1. stepladder
    2. hand controller (2272 × 1704)


When looking up Friedrich Bessel, he has two S’s.

John Emory Andrus

Support for the Andrus Planetarium came from the Surdna Foundation, established in 1917 by John Emory Andrus (1841–1934). “Surdna” is “Andrus” spelled backwards. He made his fortune buying and selling undervalued buildings and land holdings, and manufactured pharmaceuticals in Yonkers, where he was Mayor in 1903. He has a biography in the NYU library. My father once gave his son a ride home (circa 1935–1940) and found himself tipped a hundred dollars.


Speaking of making up constellations [my brother writes], I once read a story about a guy in the suburbs who was having a fight with a neighbor about a tree. The trunk was on the neighbor’s property, but it hung out over his property and was causing some problem. (Insect infestation, I think.) But the neighbor refused to do anything about it.

So the guy sneaks out one night with the intention of cutting down the tree without permission. But he hides when the neighbor emerges from the house with his son, and starts pointing out constellations—and they are all wrong, non-existent constellations. (At this point, I thought it was going to turn out that the neighbor and his family were descendants of space aliens, living among us, and he was telling his son the constellation names he learned as a child on Planet Artubis, or whatever. But no, it turns out the neighbor was just simple-minded and misinformed.) The main character is moved by his neighbor’s stupidity and tenderness toward his child, and decides not to touch the tree; end of story.

What the planetarium can do for you:
a response to a teacher

There are some things that can be taught with a (properly exploited) planetarium better than with any other instructional aid. It’s strong on directions, motions, speeds, angles, orientations—dare we say vectors? Which way is the earth turning? What would happen if you walked up the earth to the North Pole or down the earth to the equator or South Pole? What does the sky look like from Ecuador? From Albany? From Poughkeepsie? How do you find North when you’re lost in the woods at night? In the daytime, too?

Where is the plane of the Solar System (the ecliptic), the plane of the galaxy, the plane of the Virgo Supercluster? Which way does the Earth go around the Sun? Which way does Sun go around the black hole at the center of the Milky Way? Which way are we plowing through all the crud left over from the Big Bang (i.e, the cosmic background microwave radiation?) Yaw, pitch, roll—think flight simulator, except that it seats 123 people under a 14-meter dome. Or you can simulate lying on your back on a gently rocking boat on the Mediterranean Sea. Summer Triangle, Winter Triangle, Great Square of Pegasus, Belt of Orion: if there were any demand for it, we could give a mean course on celestial navigation. (And if the machine fell into the wrong hands, someone could give a mean course on astrology.) Let’s get a grip on ourselves and banish all thoughts of teaching the rudiments of spherical trigonometry.

Planets: where will they be tonight, tomorrow night, next week, next month, next year; or ten years ago? Why do they move the way we see them moving? Oppositions, conjunctions, eclipses, occultations, prograde and retrograde motions, forshortenings, perspectives? The big names—Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton—you can see how they unsnarled what we see projected against the flat plane of the sky and layed it out in three dimensions for us.

To teach all this stuff, you want to have the students under a dome. In fact, you want them to be surrounded by (and ideally at the center of) a celestial sphere having many axes of motion, complete with equator, poles, zenith, nadir, meridian, and the celestial equivalents of longitude and latitude (declination and right ascension; altitude and azimuth). That’s what a planetarium can do for you, and do better than anything else can. It’s like virtual reality but without the gloves and goggles.

On the other hand, you don’t need a planetarium to talk about greenhouse gasses or why Venus is so hot. You don’t need a planetarium to talk about why the surface of Venus is uncratered, or to show the audience the dry riverbeds on Mars. These are things that can be done just as well with a textbook or with the Discovery Channel. (Of course, you would want the dome back if you had a continuous 360° movie shot by a rover bouncing across a landscape, or a simulated fly-through of the Martian equivalent of the Grand Canyon.) And with very mixed emotions I find that some of the tasks that a planetarium is strongest at can be done more accurately and flexibly nowadays with free software (e.g., on a cheap XP laptop. (Anguish. Exaltation.)

So that is what we can offer you. Tell me what you want your students to learn—how you want to exploit the planetarium’s strengths during the precious minutes that you have your students under the dome. Then contact the Museum and have them tell the planetarium director that you want a live show given by me.


Press Inquiries

If anyone from a newspaper, TV station, radio station, etc. calls or visits, direct them to the PR director, Linda Locke. Her extension and e-mail address are on the list of staff by the phone in the planetarium.

The only exception to this is if someone wants to talk to Marc, specifically, about some breaking news story which occurs on a weekend (a monolith on the Moon, say.) In that case, call Marc and give him their info—don’t just give them his contact info. But still, give them contact info for Linda. If they want to talk to you, you can answer astronomical questions, but be careful answering questions about what the museum is doing or planning. Linda is the best person for them to talk to about that.