Visitors marvel at the heavens and learn more about the universe and its stars, planets, comets, nebulae, constellations and galaxies
(Image: Johannesburg Planetarium).
(NOTE: CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS UNTIL DECEMBER 2023)
Situated in Milner Park on the Wits University campus in Braamfontein, the Johannesburg Planetarium serves as an academic and educational centre for scholars, researchers and academics who study astronomy. The planetarium hosts about 75 000 visitors per year who come to view the planetarium’s displays, and engage in tours, lectures and workshops and it’s one of the popular things to do in Gauteng by visiting school groups.
The Johannesburg Planetarium’s history begins in 1956 when a festival committee was tasked with finding ways to celebrate Johannesburg’s 70th birthday. The idea to build the first full-sized planetarium in Africa was adopted with enthusiasm and fundraising began immediately. Avoiding delay in procuring a projector, a 26-year-old existing Zeiss MKIII lens was located and bought from the Hamburg Planetarium in Germany.
While the instrument was being upgraded and modernised in Germany, the Johannesburg City Council sold the planetarium to the University of the Witwatersrand. Construction of the planetarium premises on university property began in 1959. Doors were opened to the public in 1960.
Since then visitors have been able to marvel at the heavens and learn more about the universe and its stars, planets, comets, nebulae, constellations and galaxies.
The sounds of chattering, excited school children is very common in the planetarium. Many school groups come from far afield to view special shows which help them to learn about the constellations and gain an understanding of the movement of the moon in relation to the Earth through high-tech satellite images and telescopic views. It’s one of the more interactive and interesting tourist attractions in South Africa.
Johannesburg Planetarium serves as an academic and
educational centre (Image: Johannesburg Planetarium)
The planetarium is owned by the University of the Witwatersrand but is run as a joint project with the City of Johannesburg and provides academic support to students from other universities and is also used by astronomers working in other scientific centres.
A variety of regular shows, lecture series, night events, school shows and family shows are held every day of the week except Sundays. The planetarium also organises a series of seasonal programmes that are adapted according to the current conditions in Johannesburg’s night skies. The Planetarium can accommodate over 400 people. There is no need to book for a regular public show unless you are bringing a group of more than 20 people. Tickets can be bought at the door from 30 minutes before the show.