Planetariums in the Netherlands
Planetariums in the Netherlands
Gazing at the night’s sky can be awe-inspiring. Whether you’re looking for something entertaining to do or wish to give the kids the gift of an educational day out - or if you yourself want to learn about astronomy, weather predictions and space travel - a trip to the planetarium will tick those boxes!
The origin of Western astronomy hails from ancient Mesopotamia and continues to develop and grow to mind-blowing dimensions. See for yourself.
Planetariums in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is renowned for its museums, national parks and zoos but it also boasts an impressive set of planetariums dotted around the country. Here’s a selection of planetariums worth visiting in the Netherlands:
Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium
Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium in Friesland has been hailed the oldest working planetarium in the world still in use. The representations of the planets are built onto the ceiling of what was then Eisinga’s living room and are driven by a pendulum clock. The planets (minus Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, which were not discovered yet in Eisinga's day) are to scale by a factor of one trillion, therefore 1mm on the ceiling represents one million km.
Like the oldest museum in the Netherlands, it's situated in a low-key building on a quiet street by a canal. It was built between 1774 and 1781 by amateur astronomer Eise Eisinga and is now a museum open to the public. Not only that, but it's a Dutch heritage monument (Rijksmonument) and has been considered for being a future UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The authentic 19th century Sonnenborgh Planetarium in Utrecht is a place that welcomes visitors to its star-viewing nights each weekend evening in autumn and winter, as well as a permanent exhibition. It was established in 1853 as the observatory of Utrecht University.
From 1854 until 1897, it was the first-ever home of the Dutch Meteorological Institute (KNMI). Here, scientists made some of the first-ever Dutch weather forecasts and deciphered the composition of the sun. The planetarium was built on a 16th-century bastion, one of the best-preserved city wall bastions in the world - in short, it's an attraction steeped in history and scientific wonder.
Artis Planetarium is part of the Artis Zoo experience in Amsterdam, situated on the northwestern corner of the zoo grounds. It was officially opened in 1988, on the 150th anniversary of the Artis Zoo.
Visitors can distinguish it from other parts of the zoo by its dome-shaped roof! The “Space Trip” is a guided tour through the planetarium that teaches you about our solar system, perfect for children interested in the universe.
The planetarium ticket is part of the general zoo ticket, and sometimes there are even free star-gazing evenings.
Free star-gazing evenings in Amsterdam
In 2020, the free star-gazing evenings in Amsterdam (not only at Artis but at three locations in Amsterdam) take place on January 31 and March 27 at the University of Amsterdam, February 28 at Zeeburg Campsite and on February 29 at 7pm at Artis.
The Mercurius Planetarium motto is “Nature reaches farther than the tops of the trees”. The venue is praised for its way of explaining space travel, weather predictions and astronomy in “laypersons’ terms”, to reach as broad an audience as possible. Every Saturday evening is dedicated to stargazing, including child-centred versions.
Located inside the Hollandse Biesbosch, one of the Dutch national parks near Dordrecht, Mercurius Planetarium (Sterrenwacht Mercurius) is home to impressive paraphernalia: telescopes, including the 1922 Carl Zeiss telescope, “the pride of the planetarium”, a scale model of the International Space Station and space exhibits.
The Hellendoorn Observatory has an ultra-modern projection dome and has been nicknamed the "Theatre of the Cosmos". The star guides take visitors on a spectacular space journey through the universe, where they can get immersed in the stars.
Outside, you’ll find the Planetarium Path: hold your smartphone above one of the tiles on the path and you will see beautiful three-dimensional images of a planet or a comet, along with their background information. The observatory was opened in 2013 by Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers.
Expect to be awed by the “cinedome” - the giant dome-shaped projection screen at Planetron in Dwingeloo in the Dutch province of Drenthe. Planetron was opened in 1989 and the American astronaut Jerry Ross was invited to the official opening.
The eastern Dutch town’s claim to fame was its radio telescope, which, although it’s not part of Planetron, was the largest radio telescope in the world at the time it was built. The famous telescope discovered two galaxies, which are now named after the town: Dwingeloo 1 and Dwingeloo 2.
Whatever the weather, you can visit Limburg Planetarium (Sterrenwacht Limburg) every Friday evening to discover stars and planets. In good weather, you can view the highlights of the starry sky through the telescope assortment such as the moon, planets, clear star clusters and gas nebulae.
But even in bad weather, there is plenty to do at the observatory: there is an exhibition where you can learn more about the observatory, astronomy as a hobby and telescopes, as well as an interactive presentation about the stars and planets. The planetarium is located in Heerlen, close to the Dutch city of Maastricht and even closer to the border with Germany.
The Cosmos Planetarium is located in one of the most attractive parts of Twente, near the famous town of Ootmarsum, north of Enschede. The observatory has various exhibition spaces, the Astro Theatre, a beautiful planetarium and the largest telescope in the Netherlands.
A visit is an unforgettable experience for young and old. What could be better than looking at stars on a beautiful clear evening! That is why the observatory organises a stargazing evening each Saturday.
Go stargazing in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a great place for stargazing, learning and pondering the mysteries - and, of course, the science - of space. Learn about our universe, the planets and the stars. Even if the Dutch weather is woeful, you can take advantage of the impressive exhibitions, presentations and even guided tours.
Thumb photo credit: Marieke Wijntjes, courtesy of Sonnenborgh Planetarium