RMSC kicks off Strasenburgh Planetarium's 50th anniversary August 1 with daily star shows, revival of vintage production, hands-on family activities, and more

The Rochester Museum & Science Center’s (RMSC) Strasenburgh Planetarium is turning 50 in September 2018, and visitors are invited to celebrate during August with daily star shows, Saturday night laser shows, hands-on activities, space-themed displays, and the revival of an iconic 1972 production.

Among the celebration’s highlights is the revival of a much-requested 1972 show—The Last Question—based on a short story by Isaac Asimov and featuring music by Eastman School of Music graduate Tim Clark and narration by Leonard Nimoy. Created by the Strasenburgh Planetarium, the show explores what will happen when the stars burn out. In August, visitors can enjoy Wednesday matinees of The Last Question, as well as late-night Saturday shows following the Planetarium’s popular laser shows (separate ticket required).

Also center-stage in August are the Planetarium’s 53 slide projectors. After a half-century of projecting custom-made panoramas and multi-image animations, the Kodak projectors will whir and click for the last time during August screenings of The Last Question, The Sky Tonight, and Saturday Night Laser Shows, including the ever-popular Led Zeppelin Laser. In September the Planetarium will close for upgrades to its Star Theater, and new technology will mean the retirement of its Kodak 35mm slide projectors. (RMSC will share details on its Planetarium renovation at an August press conference.)

The Strasenburgh Planetarium opened to the public in September 1968, a gift to the citizens of Rochester from benefactors Edwin and Clara Strasenburgh, “dedicated to the promise of a fuller understanding and appreciation of the order and majesty of the Universe” (NASA administrator James Webb’s dedication address).

Since then, generations of Rochesterians have explored the wonders of the universe through star shows; giant-screen films; educational programs for students and lifelong learners; special events and features; and more. As it celebrates the Planetarium’s golden anniversary, RMSC invites the community to share memories, stories, and photos at RMSC.org/sp50.

The Strasenburgh Planetarium’s 50th anniversary events include:


The Last Question

Based on the story by Isaac Asimov

Spoken introduction by Isaac Asimov

Narration by Leonard Nimoy

Music by Tim Clark

Artwork by Victor A. Costanzo Jr.

Technical production by Joseph Ricci and Steve Fentress

Visit RMSC.org for schedules and pricing; for older children and adults; children under 5 not admitted

Originally produced in 1972, this quiet, contemplative show begins in 2061 and takes us trillions of years into the future, as human intelligence asks ever more sophisticated computers—what happens when all the stars burn out? Can entropy be reversed? At the end, a cosmic computer provides the stunning answer to the last question.

Isaac Asimov wrote the original short story in 1956, prompted by the 1952 presidential election, in which a computer known as Univac predicted that Dwight Eisenhower would beat Adlai Stevenson after only a fraction of the votes had been counted. Visiting Rochester in 1972, Asimov gave a lecture at Rochester Institute of Technology, predicting that humans should not fear the powerful computers of the future. “Mankind’s record in morality is so bad, I can’t imagine a machine being worse,” he was quoted as saying. After previewing The Last Question at the Strasenburgh Planetarium, he wrote, “It was a terrific show; in fact it was this show that finally convinced me that “The Last Question” was the best story I had ever done and (my private conviction) the best science-fiction story anyone had ever done.”

The original music for The Last Question was composed by Eastman School graduate Tim Clark, who was the Strasenburgh Planetarium’s music director at the time. Clark worked in the Planetarium’s sound studio, which was equipped with a Moog Model D Electronic Music Synthesizer (the smallest one made at the time) and three Ampex 440 tape recorders.

The Last Question was produced in collaboration with Abrams Planetarium, East Lansing, Michigan. The show ran in 45 other planetariums in 23 states, as well as in Canada, Northern Ireland, and Hong Kong. The narration by Leonard Nimoy was added in 1981. The show was previously revived for the Strasenburgh Planetarium’s 25th anniversary in 1993.


Visit RMSC.org for schedules and pricing

Animals in the Sky

Take a seat in the Star Theater and find animal shapes in the clouds in the indoor sky. Then “Carl,” the friendly star projector, shows us animal constellations among the stars of the night sky, including dogs, a swan, and eagle, a lion and a whale! Finally, on an imaginary trip, we find no animals living on the moon—only on Earth. Ages 3–6

Mars Comes Near

This summer, the “red planet” Mars shines as an almost alarmingly bright star-like light in our sky, as Earth and Mars come closer in space than any time since 2003. Meanwhile, on Mars, a 14-year-old rover is clinging to life under a dust storm and another has found organic molecules and methane gas. We have not discovered life on Mars, but with current evidence, bacterial life at some time in the history of the planet cannot be ruled out. New probes from NASA and the European Space Agency are designed to investigate further. See beautiful panoramas, preview Mars in the sky, and catch up on the latest discoveries in the Strasenburgh Planetarium’s new summer show. Each performance concludes with a tour of the current night sky using the Planetarium’s mighty star projector. For older children and adults

Planet Spectacular

See the best photos from NASA space probes and the world’s observatories. Then, let “Carl” the star projector create a realistic indoor sky for a tour of planets and constellations you can see this month. Ages 5–8

The Sky Tonight

This concise tour of the stars, constellations, and planets in the current sky uses new, solid-state lasers to guide you through the magnificent starfield produced by our star projector. See this show, then step outside to see the real sky. If it's a Saturday, stay for a laser show (separate ticket required) or head up to our telescope on clear nights. Ages 5 to adult


Visit RMSC.org for schedules and pricing; children under 5 not admitted

Thanks to its pure wavelengths, laser light provides an intense color sensation whether faint or dazzlingly bright. Our solid-state lasers put brighter and more intense color than ever before among the stars inside the Planetarium dome, accompanying great songs on a top-quality sound system.

August shows are Pink Floyd Laser and Led Zeppelin Laser.


Free with regular museum admission: $15 adults, $14 seniors and college students with ID, $13 ages 3 to 18, free for children under 3 and RMSC members. For group reservations and rates, call 585.697.1942. Visit RMSC.org for additional information.

Out of This World Wednesdays

Aug. 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 | 11am–3pm

Explore the awe-inspiring fields of Earth and space science with hands-on activities every Wednesday in August. Connect with current NASA research, play with Lego NXT robot Mars Rovers, and explore our moon and its craters.

The Strasenburgh Planetarium and Beyond display

August in the Science Museum lobby

Discover artifacts from RMSC’s collections, including a 3-D model of the Strasenburgh Planetarium, NASA models, and space-related artifacts, as well as stunning side-by-side images of our solar system taken in 1968 and 2018.

Commemorative 50th Anniversary Merchandise

Browse the Shop at RMSC for commemorative merchandise including limited-edition t-shirts, 3-D magnets, and more. New merchandise will arrive regularly.

For additional information, contact Mare Millow, Marketing Communications Manager, RMSC, 585.697.1944, mmillow@rmsc.org, or visit RMSC.org/press-news.

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