Vanderbilt Planetarium Marks 45th Anniversary

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Honors Vanderbilt’s Love of Exploration, Generates Revenue

On June 29, 2016 the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum will observe the 45th anniversary of the Vanderbilt3opening of its Planetarium, now known as the Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium.

The anniversary coincides with the final stage of the Planetarium’s technological update – the installation of a cutting-edge SkyLase laser light-show system with entertainment programs, from Audio Visual Imagineering, Inc. (AVI). The Planetarium’s advanced GeminiStar III system – which includes a Konica Minolta Infinium-L star projector, full-dome video and surround-sound – offers audiences a spectacular, immersive experience.

Suffolk County built the $1-million Planetarium in 1971 as a way to increase visitorship and to produce operating income to supplement the museum’s original $2-million trust fund. The Planetarium enhanced the Museum’s ability to carry out the science-education aspect of its mission and honored William K. Vanderbilt II’s love of science and astronomy – and his use of celestial navigation when he traveled the world’s oceans in the early twentieth century.

Following an extensive $4-million makeover and technological update, the Vanderbilt Planetarium reopened on March 15, 2013, as one of the finest and most advanced in the United States and the largest astronomical facility on Long Island.

Suffolk County provided $3.9-million of the financing for the Planetarium renovation. Private donations totaling $160,000 financed building enhancements: new theater seating; an improved heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system; a lobby facelift and a new gift shop.


Following the reopening, the Planetarium received the most generous gift in the Museum’s history. Charles and Helen Reichert pledged $1.7 million over 20 years to support the Planetarium, its programs and its future. In their honor, the facility was named The Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium.

Lance Reinheimer, executive director, said, “We are especially grateful to the Reichert family, Suffolk County and private donors for their extraordinary support of the Museum, its education programs, and its enduring value to Long Island.”

On June 28, the day before the 1971 public opening, the Vanderbilt held a private event for a select group of 120 business leaders, legislators, friends of the Vanderbilt, and planetarium directors from other cities. Suffolk County Legislator John V.N. Klein, then chairman of the Legislature, called the show “spectacular” in Newsday’s coverage. “I am overwhelmed,” he said, adding that the Planetarium “is a great educational asset to the community.”

In 1987, after welcoming more than 2.2 million visitors, the Vanderbilt refurbished the Planetarium, acoustically redesigned its newly renamed Sky Theatre, and equipped it with the latest audio equipment. The Planetarium classroom received a makeover, too, with the addition of a then-advanced VCR (video cassette recorder) and video laser-disk equipment.

(Photos by Jennifer Vacca)



Hours – Museum and Mansion
Through June 26: Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday, 12:00 – 5:00. (Planetarium is open Friday and Saturday nights.) Open additional days during school holidays. See website for details. The Museum and Mansion are closed Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Hours – Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium
Through June 26: Daytime shows Tuesday at 2:00 and Saturday and Sunday at 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00. Evening shows on Friday and Saturday at 8:00, 9:00 and 10:00. (The Planetarium is open on Friday and Saturday nights, but the Mansion, Museum and Estate grounds are closed.) The Planetarium is closed Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Year-round viewing of the night sky (weather permitting), Friday only, 9:00-10:00 (free with show ticket; $3.00 without show ticket)

Planetarium Schedule – Summer 2016

Through June 26

Tuesday Afternoons
2:00 – Stars: Powerhouses of the Universe

Friday Nights
8:00- Long Island Skies
9:00 – Black Holes: Journey into the Unknown
10:00 Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon (Laser Show!)

Saturday Nights
8:00 – Night Sky, Live!
9:00 – Stars: Powerhouses of the Universe
10:00 – Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon (Laser Show!)

Saturday & Sunday Afternoons
12:00 – One World, One Sky
1:00 – Earth, Moon, and Sun
2:00 – Laser Magic
3:00 – Night Sky, Live!
4:00 – iPop laser

Museum Admission
General museum admission is $7 for adults, $6 for students with ID and seniors (62 and older), and $3 for children 12 and under. General admission includes estate-grounds access to the Marine Museum, Memorial Wing natural-history and ethnographic-artifact galleries, Nursery Wing, Habitat Room, Egyptian mummy and Stoll Wing animal-habitat dioramas. For a mansion tour, add $5 per ticket. (A video tour of the mansion is available on request.)

Mansion Tours
Guided tours of the Vanderbilt Mansion — listed on the National Register of Historic Places — are available Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00.

Planetarium Admission
During the day, visitors to the Planetarium pay general museum admission ($7 for adults, $6 for students with IDs and seniors 62 and older, and $3 for children 12 and under), plus $5 each for a Planetarium show. Since the museum is closed in the evening, no general museum admission is charged — visitors pay only for Planetarium show tickets: $9 for adults, $8 for students with IDs and seniors 62 and older, and $7 for children 12 and under.

Vanderbilt Observatory
Night-sky viewing on Friday (weather permitting), 9:00-10:00 p.m. Observation is free to visitors with a planetarium show ticket, $3.00 for those without a show ticket.

Location and Website
The Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport, NY. Directions and updated details on programs and events are available at For information, call 631-854-5579.




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