Enjoy a Brisbane Planetarium Night Sky Tour

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I embarked on my Brisbane Planetarium night sky tour. Forty-five minutes after deciding I’d do it, I found myself reclining in the second row of Brisbane’s 360-degree Cosmic Skydome, watching the ceiling rush towards me in an immersive experience. I felt as if I was inside a fun park ride, until stars vividly shone around us, and our guide/astronomer Eileen began pinpointing celestial landmarks in the night sky.

The Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium

I initially said no to going on the tour, as I got there and found out that no photography or video is permitted inside the skydome. I thought, what’s the point if I’m doing a blog post on this? I considered this and decided – the experience of course, and I could also photograph other parts of the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, of which there are many. So I bought my ticket to the ‘Destination: Universe’ session and stepped inside.

The orbital hallway outside the skydome
The entrance to the Brisbane Planetarium night sky tour

The Brisbane Planetarium Night Sky Tour

I was seated comfortably on a 45-degree angle inside the skydome so I could maximise my experience. Our astronomer Eileen took us on a journey – starting with the sky as it looked right now (then), pointing out various sky marks to us neophytes. The sky then gradually faded into darkness and Eileen pointed out the constellations to us and where they sit, depending on the time of year. Each corner of the sky was also marked north, east, south and west, which was certainly helpful.

Inside the Cosmic Skydome

At this point, it was good the seats were comfortable and reclined so far back, as the activity at the beginning of the session was directly behind me. I had to arch my neck over to see, which was quite possible inside the 360-degree Cosmic Skydome. Everyone had a great view of the Brisbane Planetarium night sky tour. Next, Eileen honed in on the various planets in our solar system, describing details about each one – size, atmosphere, composition, etc. We even did a Mars landing and zoomed in on Mars’ largest volcano, Olympus Mons, which is three times larger than Mt Everest.

Inside the Cosmic Skydome – after the show was finished, of course

From here we zoomed, quite literally, farther out into the universe, looking at aspects of our galaxy from afar. Then we zoomed even farther out, viewing the myriad of galaxies in our universe. Eventually, we saw a theoretical pattern created by the galaxy clusters’ light, from the farthest point we think we’re able to ascertain. It was all pretty interesting, visually awesome, and Eileen our astronomer/guide was great at putting things into layman’s terms.

Brisbane’s Cosmic Skydome

Of course, the Brisbane Planetarium night sky tour was made possible because of the Cosmic Skydome, which is a wonderful piece of technology. The screen spans 12.5 metres in diameter and has wireless listening devices for the visually impaired. The skydome incorporates 128 seats into its experience, giving visitors the most immersive 360-degree virtual experience of the night sky yet in Australia.

Incorporating accessibility into the experience (outside the Cosmic Skydome)

The Henbury Meteorite

Visitors can also enjoy the observatory at the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, which I didn’t get to see on this occasion. However, just outside the Cosmic Skydome, there’s the Henbury Meteorite on display. Collected at the Henbury Meteorite Conservation Reserve, about 145kms southwest of Alice Springs, the meteorite collided with Earth at roughly 40,000km/h more than 4,000 years ago. Comprised of iron and nickel, the Henbury Meteorite weighs 43.5kg.

The Henbury Meteorite

The Sundial Courtyard

After your Brisbane Planetarium night sky tour, you could also check out the Sundial Courtyard, which lies on the side opposite the planetarium’s entrance. The gigantic sundial is made out of concrete, steel, and glass, and you can practice telling the time with it – if you wish – as it’s allegedly accurate to within 10 minutes. Not great for urgent appointments or first dates, but could still be quite useful! It’s a relaxing spot to take a seat, as you can see from the pic below. Unfortunately, I chopped off the top of the Sundial.

The Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium Sundial Courtyard

Galaxy Gift Shop and Foyer

I didn’t thoroughly investigate the Planetarium’s Galaxy Gift Shop, but it’s allegedly stocked with astronomy merchandise, including star charts, spacecraft models, educational items and souvenirs. In front of the shop, there’s the Zeiss Spacemaster Star Projector, which retired from the skydome in 2010. There’s also a spaceman in the foyer and the display hall aptly orbits the Cosmic Skydome, displaying planetary information, footage and information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander astronomy.

The Galaxy Gift Shop
The Zeiss Spacemaster Star Projector

That’s a wrap

In all, I really enjoyed my Brisbane Planetarium night sky tour, and I’ll most certainly be back to check out one of the many other shows held here. The ladies at the counter were friendly and helpful, and Eileen, who I managed to have a chat with after the show, was an excellent guide. Next time I’ll try and bring my twelve-year-old, who was unfortunately sick this time.

The foyer of the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium

A Few Fast Facts

  • A show inside the Cosmic Skydome costs $16 for adults and $10 for children, aged 3-14 years.
  • No photography or video is allowed inside the Cosmic Skydome while it’s in operation.
  • If you suffer from dizziness or vertigo, perhaps enquire further as the Brisbane Planetarium night sky tour could be a little nauseating. Although as Eileen says, just close your eyes if this happens.
  • The Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium is located in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha, about a 25-minute drive from the CBD.
  • The car park next to the gardens/planetarium can get really packed. However, there are options to park across the road from the entrance, which is what I did.
  • The Destination Universe show goes for 50 minutes only, although it felt longer!
  • There are plenty of shows on at the planetarium, some of which are not suitable for children. Check out the Brisbane City Council’s website to find out more.

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