Sitting in Centerport, along the island’s picturesque north shore. the Vanderbilt Planetarium has served as a school field trip destination to countless school kids ever since its doors opened in 1971.
William Vanderbilt, grandson of Cornelius, wasn’t an astronomer. No, he was all about race cars and other worldly adventures, amassing a huge collection of artifacts from around the world during his lifetime.
When he died in 1944, he left his 43-acre estate, Eagle’s Nest, to the fine folks of the State of New York, to serve as a museum and public park.
Perhaps as a result of the space race of the 60s, the County elected to build the planeterium in 1970. The state of the art facility opened to the public the following year – and a neverending stream of schoolchildren arrived. You might have been one of them.
It certainly wasn’t the worst field trip a kid could experience. You got to relax in nice comfortable chairs in a dark room while a three dimensional display of our galaxy appeared on the roof.
You would learn how everything moved around the universe, how the planets revolved, that sort of stuff. Of course, a few of us couldn’t help but nod off in those comfy chairs in the dark room.
In the decades that followed, the planeterium began offering other types of entertainment, most notably laser rock shows. They looked something like this (although this is from a different planetarium.
We may have a few folks that remember those late night Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd-themed shows, even if the memories might be a little hazy.
Into the new century, the planeterium really began showing its age. Thankfully, after much wrangling, the entire facility recieved a much needed and lengthy update in 2013.
These important renovations keep the Planetarium alive for future generations of star watchers, maybe even a few future star travelers.
Do you have fond memories of visiting the Planetarium on a school field trip? Did you fall asleep? I’d love to hear all of your recollections in the comments section below.