of Ls Rauch Planetarium
offers something for everyone
(April 2002) LOUISVILLE, Ky. Are April showers
hindering your star-gazing activities? Then you might want to consider
a trip to Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium on the University
of Louisville campus.
The 9,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, which opened its doors
to the public last spring, replaced the Rauch Memorial Planetarium,
which was razed in 1998.
The original planetarium was named in honor of Rabbi Joseph Rauch, a
prominent Louisville civic leader and rabbi of the Adath Israel congregation
who served on the boards of trustees of the University of Louisville
and of the Louisville Free Public Library.
The planetarium was dedicated at a ribbon cutting ceremony
on April 17, 1962, marking the opening of the first planetarium in Kentucky.
Primarily providing educational programs for students, Rauch Memorial
Planetarium served the community for 25 years under the supervision
of planetarium director Tom Boone. However, due to operating budget
deficits, university officials considered shutting down the facility
in the late 1980s.
In 1989 a decision was made to keep the planetarium open on a break-even
basis. In 1991 the Roving Astronomer Program, a community outreach program,
was introduced. The program, which is still in existence, provides education
for school groups unable to make a trip to the planetarium.
Although the planetarium continued to serve the community through the
1990s, budget issues and a need for space forced university trustees
to revisit alternative uses for the property. In November 1997, the
trustees decided to tear down the planetarium to make room for a parking
garage for the J.B. Speed Art Museum. The decision captured public attention
Support was rallied for the planetarium, and local community leaders,
along with city and county officials, began to discuss ways to fund
the construction of a new planetarium.
Major funding in the form of a $1.45 million contribution from the Gheens
Foundation, a private trust formed by the Gheens family of Louisville,
to help fund educational projects in the community secured a future
for the planetarium.
The Paul Ogle Foundation followed suit with a $500,000 pledge, and the
City of Louisville, Jefferson County and the University of Louisville
made pledges of $250,000 each.
The last presentation in the Rauch Memorial Planetarium was held on
Feb. 6, 1998, marking 36 years of service to the community.
The following month, the old planetarium was razed, and that spring,
the architectural firm of Louis and Henry of Louisville began work on
plans for the new planetarium and science center. Fundraising for the
project continued with total contributions of over $3 million by December
A site was chosen on the university campus close to the Speed Art Museum
parking garage, and on Dec. 13, 1999, the groundbreaking ceremony was
held. Special guest John Glenn, a former astronaut and senator, told
those present at the ceremony, The more we excite people about
space something that is bigger than all of us the better.
That goal was realized in the community on April 24, 2001, at the grand
opening of the new Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium.
The new facility, which celebrated its first anniversary in March and
continuing into April, has exciting educational and entertainment programs
to offer the community. Unlike the old planetarium, the new facility
In addition to traditional astronomy programs, the planetarium also
offers musical laser shows and high definition video presentations,
such as the current Cinamuse program, Diving with Whales.
State-of-the-art technology, which includes a wrap-around video system,
3D computer modeled imagery, 360-degree panoramic slide and video projection,
as well as an advanced digital, multi-channel, 15,000-watt surround
sound system treat visitors to a truly unique experience of light and
The facility has many services to offer the community, from educational
programs for students of all ages to technical support, such as video
conferencing, for businesses, according to planetarium director Shawn
Laatsch. However, the current challenge is getting the word out to the
Most people dont know were here yet, says Laatsch.
Because the planetarium is operated on a 100 percent cost recovery basis,
continued support from the community is necessary.
We are looking to build an endowment that will fund a substantial
part of our annual budget, says Laatsch. Naming opportunities
also still exist and corporate sponsorships are being accepted.
The planetarium is open Tuesday through Friday. The planetariums
gift shop, the Supply Ship, offers a variety of merchandise from astronaut
ice cream to videos and CD-ROMs.
A current program schedule and hours of operation
are posted on the Web at www.louisville.edu/planetarium.
For information, call (502) 852-6664.
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