Stars align, planetarium reopens

Adler planetarium staff poses for grand re-openining after two years on March 4th.

Photo courtesy of @adlerplanet

Adler planetarium staff poses for grand re-openining after two years on March 4th.

Chicago’s Adler Planetarium reopened its doors to the public on March 4, and is now offering free admission to Illinois residents every Wednesday evening. 

The Adler is 92 years old and was the first planetarium to open in the Western Hemisphere. After two years of forced closure to prevent the spread of Covid-19, people are excited to visit one of Chicago’s landmark museums once again. 

“Whenever I step into a planetarium it’s like I’m in a different world,” DePaul transfer student Ruchi Nawathe said. “If you have an interest in learning about [the solar system] it’s a really cool, educational [experience].”

Ryu Mizuno, the vice president of marketing and business strategy at the Adler Planetarium, said he was ecstatic to see so many people come to the Adler’s reopening this past weekend.

“Whether it was a little kid, family, or retiree, everyone was just saying how excited they were to come visit the Adler again,” he said. 

Although the Adler was closed during the pandemic, they did open some of their sky shows last summer.

“Over last summer, we did open up some of our sky shows, but granted that wasn’t a full reopening [and] the last two years we have been working hard to still engage with the public,” Mizuno said.

To continue engagement with the public as a non-profit museum dedicated to the study of astronomy and astrophysics, the Adler developed a digital platform during the pandemic. 

“What makes the Adler really special is not just the contents within the museum, but our staff, and our ability to connect with the people and the public,” Mizuno said. “Especially during the pandemic, that has extended in the digital space as well.” 

Mizuno said the planetarium was able to bring a majority of their staff back for their reopening. 

“We did security everyday over the two years [we were closed], making sure no one got into the building or destroyed anything,” said Janet Anderson, a member of the security team at Adler Planetarium. “It was nice to see people back in the building and having everything open.”

Mizuno said the museum reopened this March because it was an opportune time with both the city and CDC mask and proof of vaccination mandates being lifted simultaneously. He emphasized the Adler is a mask-friendly place and they understand everyone is at different comfort levels regarding mask wearing. 

“We had to take into consideration what is best for the institution both from a business and financial standpoint and the safety of our staff,” he said. “Now was that time, and this past weekend, we saw people coming back in droves.”

In addition to a few new policies, the Adler added new exhibits upon its reopening. This includes the largest telescope available to the public in the Doane Observatory and the Chicago’s Night Sky exhibit. Mizuno said the planetarium launched the exhibit right before the closure in 2020 to encourage curious people to look up at the sky and witness how light pollution impacts the solar system. 

“Whether you are somebody with a Ph.D. or have no idea what the solar system is, we are a place that encourages that kind of curiosity and questions, so that we can make sure that [for] whoever engages with us, we have the opportunity to help [them] reach their full potential,” Mizuno said. “That’s a special role we play in our environment today, where facts can get a little blurry.”