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The City Journals

Clark Planetarium is out-of-this world fun

Feb 17, 2020 03:12PM ● By Christy Jepson

The Clark Planetarium opened at The Gateway April 2003. (Photo John Zierow)

By Christy Jepson | [email protected]

Looking for an indoor family activity to beat the wintertime blues? The Clark Planetarium is three floors full of state-of-the-art science and space exhibits, and has out-of-this-world IMAX, star and laser shows, and boasts having the best science gift shop in the city. 

Located in The Gateway in Salt Lake City, the Clark Planetarium offers 10,000 square feet of interactive and hands-on exhibit space for visitors to explore, discover and play. There is no charge to walk through the exhibits at the Clark Planetarium. 

“Because Clark Planetarium is a division of Salt Lake County, we have basic funding that enables us to extend unique, interactive STEM and space education to those who wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise…. we never want someone’s financial situation to get in the way of stimulating eager minds and creating wonder and awe about what makes our world and universe tick,” said Audra Sorensen, communication and development supervisor. 

There are three main exhibit areas in the planetarium: Earth, Near Earth and Beyond.

In the Earth exhibit hall, visitors can step inside a giant tornado, make a volcano, watch the Foucault Pendulum, see the giant 6-foot Rand McNally Earth Globe, touch the second largest meteorite on display west of the Mississippi, look at one of the largest moon rocks on public display, and learn about the different phases of the moon.  

In the Near Earth area, there are exhibits about planetary magnetic fields, plasma, and a giant projection of the sun. Visitors can also see a time-lapse footage of the aurora from the International Space Station. 

Visitors can learn all about the solar system in the Beyond exhibit area. In this exhibit you can learn what planets smell like, watch water freeze, and give your own weather forecast from a location of your choice. The Io exhibit is the most immersive part of the planetarium. Visitors can stand on Jupiter’s closest large moon, Io, and drive a rover on Io to collect resources. The Northrop Grumman Exploration Space area is a play space for children. Children can climb inside a rocket, see a glow-in-the dark mural inside the rocket, play on a magnet board, and build and fly a rocket.   

The only cost in the Clark Planetarium are the show tickets to watch a film in the Northrop Grumman IMAX theatre or in the Hansen Dome theatre. The cost is $7 for shows before 5 p.m. and $9 for shows after 5 p.m. Children under 12 are $7 and 2 and under are free. 

The Hansen Dome Theatre is a dome-shaped theater with a 55-foot diameter and can seat more than 150 guests. This 360-degree immersive experience can display accurate star fields, animated presentation, and take visitors on a trip through space. 

The Northrop Grumman IMAX theatre is 70 feet wide by 50 feet tall and can seat more than 250 guests. These IMAX films focus on science and nature. Some shows are available for a limited time while others are always available in their permanent collection. 

Also available are Cosmic Light Shows played on the Hansen Dome screen available Thursday through Saturday evenings. 

“We are opening seven shows in 2020. All our shows are documentaries, science-related, or space-themed,” Sorensen said. The schedule for these new films are:  

In the Hansen Dome Theatre:

  • Jan. 17: “The Edge: To Pluto and Beyond”
  • May 25: “The Birth of Planet Earth”
  • Aug. 15: “Wayfinders”

Northrop Grumman IMAX Theatre will open: 

  • Feb. 15: “Dinosaurs of Antarctica”
  • April 4: “Asteroid Impact”
  • July 4: “Into America’s Wild”
  • Nov. 14: “Out of Bounds/Angkor Wat”

The original Hansen Planetarium, located at 15 S. Main St., opened on Thanksgiving Day 1965, in the old Salt Lake City library building built in 1904. This was home to the planetarium for almost 40 years. In April 2003, under a grant from the Clark Foundation, the Hansen Planetarium changed names to the Clark Planetarium and in cooperation with Salt Lake County built a much bigger space in The Gateway.  

The Clark Planetarium is open 363 days a year (closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas). The hours are Sunday through Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. The planetarium is located at 110 S. 400 West in Salt Lake City. For more information visit slco.org/clark-planetarium or call 385-468-7827