Dr. Manfred Olson
The Planetarium was erected in 1965, opened for the first time in 1966 and was named after Manfred Olson (1903-1966), a professor of physics from 1931 to 1963. A native of Wisconsin, Olson’s 32 year career took him to such places as the University of Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory (1943), and to Los Alamos, New Mexico (1947-1949) as senior physicist in the research and development of Geiger counter systems. In 1943, Olson served as Coordinator of the Air Force Training Program at the Milwaukee State Teachers College, and as chair of the Physics Department, serving many years until merger action formed the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. After retiring from UWM in 1963, he became the Planetarium director and part-time lecturer in the Physics Department.
The Planetarium Today
In 2007, Dr. Jean Creighton became director of the Planetarium. Her goal was to improve the visibility of the fine facility by offering astronomical programs to the general public, as well as to private groups, such as the Girl Scouts or school groups. Creighton further developed the Friday Night Show by designing creative and engaging presentations; and, shortly thereafter, developed Astrobreak, Stargazing, and Special Events. Since her directorship began, Planetarium interest and attendance has increased significantly, giving many children and adults alike the opportunity to shared in her enthusiasm and love of astronomy!
The Manfred Olson Planetarium is housed in the Department of Physics at UWM. The theater is equipped with a Spitz A3P optomechanical projector that projects stars, planets, the Sun, and the Moon on the Planetarium’s 30-foot dome. Four digital projectors and separate special projectors are also used for visual effects such a rotating Milky Way Galaxy and the Aurora Borealis. In addition, the Planetarium is equipped with RGB LED cove lights and constellation projectors. Visitors may see our display case of astronomical items in the hallway to the theater. The Observatory deck on the roof of the Physics building is used for our Stargazing sessions. We own and operate a Meade 10″ LX200, Meade 226, Celestron-8, Astroscan, Unitron D102, and a 12-inch Meade reflector telescope.