History of ZEISS Planetariums

How it all began

In 1913, Oskar von Miller, founder of the Deutsches Museum (German Museum) in Munich, 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 Carl Zeiss for suggestions concerning this kind of a planetarium, but World War I interrupted things.

Walther Bauersfeld, after unveiling a 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 August 1923 when the artificial sky lit up for the first time, far exceeding expectations. After completion, the apparatus – Model I – was permanently installed at the German Museum in 1925. Subsequent developments in planetarium technology ultimately led to Model IX and also resulted in smaller size models for teaching purposes. Yet as far as innovations go, there is still no end in sight:

With the advent of computers, Carl Zeiss equipped planetariums with computer-assisted control systems, built mid-sized planetariums, 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.

Milestones

1913
Order from the German Museum: 2 sky models © ZEISS Archives

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

1923
1923: 16-meter dome is completed on the roof of theZeiss Works in Jena © ZEISS Archives

In early 1923, the 16-meter dome is completed on the roof of the Zeiss Works in Jena. The dome is based on the shell design invented and patented by Walther Bauersfeld that is still in use to this day.

1925
1925: Projection planetarium model I © ZEISS Archives

Demonstration of the Model I projection planetarium to the supervisory board of the German Museum, Munich; The public inauguration takes place on 7 May 1925.

1926
First planetarium with a dumbbell-shaped projector (Model II) in Wuppertal, Germany © ZEISS Archives

Opening of the first planetarium with a dumbbell-shaped projector (Model II) in Wuppertal, Germany.

1951
Series production for universal large planetariums (ZGP) and small planetariums (ZKP) in Jena. © ZEISS Archives

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

1956
Series production of the large planetariums (Model III, Model IV) in Oberkochen. © ZEISS Archives

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

1974
Large planetariums with automatic control systems © ZEISS Archives

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

1984
COSMORAMA large planetarium with control computer © ZEISS Archives

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

1989
Planetarium projector with fiber projectors for tilted domes © ZEISS Archives

Opening of the Finnish Science Center in Vantaa, Finland, with the first Universarium, a planetarium projector with fiber projectors for tilted domes.

1996
STARMASTER mid-sized planetarium featuring fiber optics © ZEISS Archives

Series production of the STARMASTER mid-sized planetarium featuring fiber optics.

2008
VELVET video projector © ZEISS Archives

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