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Position Statement: the Role of Planetariums in Education
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This Position Statement was issued by the IPS in 2008 as a response to comments that were made during the United States presidential campaign. During that campaign, Senator John McCain criticized a funding request for the Adler Planetarium as: "$3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois." This position paper sought to demonstrate that planetariums are much more than "overhead projectors." For a more thorough, and recent, description of the educational value of the planetarium, please see this 2019 white paper prepared by the IPS Education Committee.

IPS Official Statement on the Role of Planetariums in Education

Since planetariums have been described critically in the current US presidential campaign, the International Planetarium Society welcomes the opportunity to clarify the role of planetariums in the American and worldwide educational systems.

Planetariums are domed theaters that project images of the starry sky and countless spectacular objects we find in our universe, creating educational experiences that teach astronomy and related sciences. The star projectors that show the night sky itself are among the most durable, versatile, and cost-effective of educational tools.

Planetariums are the world's astronomy classrooms and theaters of public science education that have served perhaps a billion people during the past century. The world's 3000 planetariums are found in schools, colleges and universities, and museums and science centers in all 50 US states and in over 100 countries around the world.

In a time when quality science education is more important than ever, a scientifically literate public is an essential part of the progress of any country. Planetariums around the world both inspire and educate people of all ages about our surroundings-the Earth itself and our place in the Universe-and they are often a place in which young people become enthused to follow a scientific career. Many of today's leading scientists chose their careers because they were captivated by the experience of a planetarium visit.

Planetariums also were used to train early astronauts in celestial navigation techniques. By showing the fascinating discoveries in astronomy and space exploration, planetariums are a major tool in increasing science literacy. This dissemination of knowledge distinguishes our time from the Middle Ages, when knowledge was restricted to an elite few.


The International Planetarium Society is the world body of professionals in the planetarium field and does not endorse candidates in any election campaign.

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