History of ZEISS Planetariums

How it all began

In 1913, founder of the Deutsches Museum (German Museum) in Munich, Oskar von Miller, had an idea for an apparatus that would depict the apparent motions of the sun, moon, and planets along with those of the stars. He soon asked ZEISS for suggestions concerning this kind of a planetarium, but World War I interrupted things.

Walther Bauersfeld, member of the Carl Zeiss Jena Board of Management, after unveiling the new design for a projection planetarium in March 1919, began working with the employees under him to flesh out the details. The long-awaited moment finally arrived in October 1923 when the artificial sky lit up in the Deutsches Museum for the first time, far exceeding expectations. On 7 May 1925, the ZEISS Planetarium in the Deutsches Museum in Munich began operation. Subsequent developments ranged further to Model IX and projectors for small and medium dome sizes.

Later, ZEISS equipped its planetariums with computer-aided control systems and developed fiber optics to depict the night skies more brilliantly than ever. The evolution of ZEISS planetariums, which can now be found all over the world, eventually led to the VELVET video projector – featuring superior contrast for perfect full-dome projection and to the UNIVIEW software suite for all types of digital projection content.

  • Order from the German Museum: 2 sky models


    Oskar von Miller orders two sky models from ZEISS for the Deutsches Museum in Munich: a Copernican planetarium and a sky model that shows the heavens as seen from the earth.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives

  • 16 meter dome on the roof of the Zeiss Works in Jena, 1923


    In early 1923, a dome is built on the roof of the ZEISS Works for testing the planetarium. It is based on the shell design invented by Walther Bauersfeld.
    On 21 October, Bauersfeld presents the projector in Munich – the birth of the modern planetarium.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives

  • Model I projection planetarium, 1925


    With the new building of the Deutsches Museum, the world's first planetarium also opens to the public on 7 May.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives

  • First planetarium with a dumbbell-shaped projector (Model II) in Wuppertal, 1926


    Opening of the first planetariums featuring a dumbbell projector (Model II) in Germany.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives

  • 1939

    Delivery of the first small planetariums for training in astronomical navigation.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives

  • Series production for universal large planetariums (ZGP) and small planetariums (ZKP) in Jena


    Series production for universal projection planetariums (UPP) and small planetariums (ZKP 1) commences in Jena.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives

  • Series production of the large planetariums (Model III, Model IV) in Oberkochen.


    Series production of the large planetariums (Model III, Model IV) in Oberkochen.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives

  • Large planetariums with automatic control systems (Model VI A).


    Delivery of the first space flight planetariums with automatic control from Jena.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives

  •  COSMORAMA large planetarium with computer guidance.


    Delivery of the COSMORAMA large planetarium with computer guidance from Jena to Canada.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives

  • Planetarium projector with fiber projectors for tilted domes.


    Delivery of the first Starball planetarium with fiber optics from Jena.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives

  • STARMASTER mid-sized planetarium featuring fiber optics.


    Joint Model VII planetarium projector from ZEISS in Oberkochen and ZEISS in Jena for the "Forum of Technology" in Munich, Germany.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives

  • VELVET video projector


    The projection of absolute black – the special feature of the VELVET video projector for planetariums. All standard projectors project a gray background and therefore do not achieve the brilliance and contrast of the VELVET video projector.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives

  • 2011

    Opening of the world's largest planetarium with a dome diameter of 35 meters in Nagoya (Japan) equipped with a UNIVERSARIUM Model IX planetarium projector.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives

  • 2018

    ZEISS acquires UNIVIEW visualization software for its digital planetarium systems. ZEISS has been consistently developing the software ever since.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives

  • 2020

    ZEISS introduces ASTERION, a new type of star projector for hybrid installations with digital systems.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives

  • 2023

    Together with the Deutsches Museum, the "Gesellschaft deutschsprachiger Planetarien" (society of German-speaking planetariums), the International Planetarium Society and partners from politics and industry, ZEISS is celebrating 100 years of the planetarium.

    Photo: © ZEISS Archives