Enjoy stargazing in San Diego with your family at the Palomar College Planetarium located approximately 30 minutes north of Downtown.
With its state-of-the-art digital technology, 50-foot Astrotec dome and 138-seat theater, the planetarium presents weekly Friday shows recreating the night sky and renewing that childhood sense of wonder in exploring the universe.
The first presentation of the evening, “The Sky Tonight,” is a live narrated show that highlights prominent objects visible from San Diego skies. As the lights dim, you can hear the “oohs” and “aahs” as the dome’s roof seemingly rolls back to expose the night’s sky. The narrator takes you on a tour of the current night sky exploring visible planets, clusters, constellation patterns and their mythology. You can practically feel your stomach drop from the gravitational pull as celestial bodies swirl past your seat.
The second show is a professionally produced Hollywood-quality feature that uses the entire dome of the digital theater to create an immersive and engaging experience. These productions explore astronomical topics that are educational and entertaining to kids of all ages.
Following the shows, you are invited to enjoy the real thing on the patio using high-powered telescopes provided by the planetarium. You can also bring your own and get expert help in finding your favorite stars and constellations.
“The best time of year to view the night sky is always the summertime,” says Mark Lane, director of the planetarium. “This is partly because the nights are warm and it’s easy to sit outside and enjoy the stars, but summertime is when the Milky Way looks its best. The Milky Way is visible all year long, but during the summer when the Earth is in its orbit at night, we face the center of the Milky Way, so it is most dramatic across the sky.”
As part of its outreach mission, the planetarium hosts local K-12 school groups each Tuesday and Thursday. “The kids are full of energy,” says Lane. “They want to learn. All at once there are a dozen hands in the air asking about the big bang theory, black holes and what happens when galaxies merge together.”
You can also support the planetarium by joining the Friends of the Planetarium organization. Members can participate in exclusive activities and enjoy perks at the public shows.
Stargazing at the planetarium is a fun, affordable and informative evening for your family (ages 5 and up). You’ll be inspired to camp out in your own backyard and watch this summer’s meteor showers. Best of all, you’ll rediscover the wonders of the night sky with your family.
Astronomy Fun for Families
Palomar College Planetarium
1140 West Mission Rd., San Marcos
Planetarium Shows at Fleet Science Center
1875 El Prado, Balboa Park
Stargazing at Mission Trails Regional Park
Tours of the Palomar Observatory
Maureen Hudson is a freelance writer living in Vista.
Updated: July 2018