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8CThc Daily Tar HeelMonday, August 24, 1981
77 T O
Planetarium explores space wonders
By DAVID JARRETT
DTH Staff Writer
In 1930, John Motley Morehead, grand
son of a North Carolina governor and at
the time U.S. minister to Sweden, saw a
The International Exposition in Stock
holm was exhibiting a planetarium, one
of 27 made by the Zeiss Optical Company
between August 1924 and World War II.
Morehead wanted to give one to the Uni
versity and the state that he loved.
There were only five planetaria in the
nation at the time. None were in the
South, on university campuses, nor out
side large cities.
But in 1947, Morehead made the down
payment on one, the beginning of a $3
And in the generation since then, about
3 million people, many thousands of them
North Carolina schoolchildren, have seen
the image of the night sky projected on
the Morehead Planetarium's dome.
"It's unlike anything you can exper
ience anywhere on God's earth," says
Tony Jenzano, director of the planetarium
Students can explore the wonders of the
universe in the planetarium's current show,
"Stonehenge Encounter." The show ex
amines theories suggesting that the great
stone ring on Salisbury Plain, England,
was an ancient astronomical observatory.
"Stonehenge Encounter" is shown at 8
p.m. weeknights, 11 a.m. and 1, 3 and 8
p.m. Saturdays, and 3 and 8 p.m. Sun
days. Admission is $2 for students, $2.75
for other adults and $1.35 for children
But it hasn't always been that way.
When the planetarium opened in May
1949, admission was 38 cents for adults,
18 cents for children and charged reluc
tantly, only because officials decided at
the outset that the planetarium would be
That status needs to change, Jenzano
"We have always operated on the thresh
hold of bankruptcy," he said. "It's made
us lean and strong.
Molly 1 Maguire's
Resturaunt and Pub
Featuring: deli sandwiches, homemade
soups, stuffed spuds and
'HOTSTUFF ' chili, gumbo
and shrimp Creole
Lower Level NCNB Plaza 942-4668
Open: M-F 11:30 am-l:00 am
Sat 5:30 am-l:00 am
"(But) any serious cutback ... is going
to become visible" in the quality of More
head Planetarium programs, he said.
The problem is that rising costs exert
pressure against a basic planetarium goal:
to keep its programs affordable to all.
North Carolinians. Ticket receipts and
services now cover only 80 to 85 percent
of the planetarium's costs while ticket
sales covered them all for the first 20 years,
The N.C. General Assembly will have
an opportunity in November to make a
special appropriation to the planetarium
to keep its programming standards as
Those standards are high, Jenzano said.
"Without reservation, our programming
is as good, if not better, than any plane-,
tarium in the world."
Quality programs take months of plan
ning by senior officials, technicians and
graphics specialists. The same care and
planning has marked the planetarium's
operation 'from the beginning.
In January J949, for instance, a team
of scientists including Roy K. Marshall,
first director of the planetarium, and
Jenzano, then Marshall's chief technician,
worked in a basement room of Woollen
Gym to put the projector, together. It had
arrived earlier in 14 crates, one of which
was so large that a window of the gymna
sium had to be removed to let it in.
Assembly of the major parts took 17
hours, a remarkably short time, but the.
minor adjustments needed to get the ma
chine in top working order took far longer.
Then in May 1949, the facility built to
house the planetarium was finished. It was
designed by the firm of Eggers Higgins of
New York, architects also for the. Jefferson
Memorial and the National Archives build
ing in Washington, D.C. J. A. Jones Con
struction of Charlotte built the facility. .
The exterior is beautiful and distinctive,
. possibly most so for the use of 44 shades
of James River Colonial hand-made brick,
its clean lines and its stately columns.
We 're glad you We decided to
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Domed room with console and projector provides seating for 450
several shows each year entertain and educate thousands
Inside is the rotunda, a 16-sided room
that houses part of the famed Morehead
art collection. The room includes 16 col
umns of Green Ozark Mountain marble,
each one cut from a single stone.
Also inside is a Copernican Orrery, a
35-foot walk-in moving scale model of
the' solar system showing the sun and the
six closest planets. When built, it was only
one of two in the world.
These facilities were dedicated May 1 1,
1949, and people- clearly liked the new
planetarium. More than 180,000 people
visited it the first year, including 32,000
high school students.
The warm reception wasn't completely
expected, Jenzano said. "At the beginning
of construction, there was some contro
versy about how Mr. Morehead could
spend his money 'more wisely' than to
build a planetarium," Jenzano said. "It
was obvious people didn't know what a
planetarium was." . " '
As the planetarium grew more popular,
several improvements were made. Two
modifications of the projection system, in
1959 and 1963, provided clearer definition
of images and more special effects.
But the largest additions came later. In
1969, the latest Zeiss projector was in
stalled at a cost of a quarter-million
dollars. And in 1971 , the wing of the build
ing that faces the arboretum was finished.
It includes a telescope, ballroom, kitchen,
guest rooms and lounge and the Morehead
Foundation offices. -
Perhaps themost noticeable service the
planetarium has performed, besides intro
ducing North Carolina to the wonders
of astronomy, has been its role in training
U.S. astronauts. American space travelers
from John Glenn to those soon to leave
on space shuttle flights have learned to
orient themselves in space through courses
and lectures there. '
But the main goal of the Morehead
Planetarium has not changed from the
early years in the late 1940s. "The plane
tarium serves the purpose of introducing
and inspiring people in the study and ad
vancement of astronomy and . related
sciences," said Jenzano, who calls a visit
to the planetarium "an instant education"
in the universe.
The planetarium seeks to provide that
education by entertaining especially
to University students. "We consider the
student population a part of the family ...
a high priority" in programming, Jenzano
For the people of North Carolina and
the nation's oldest state university, the
Morehead Planetarium's service and
John Motley Morehead's legacy lives on.
The Bottom Line takes a
lighter look at the hews.
Look for it every Tuesday
sand Thursday &rvl the
editorial page or ine uauy
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