The UWM Planetarium connects the community to the beauty of the night sky and the wonders of the cosmos through live, interactive programs that engage audiences in entertaining, innovative, and accessible ways. By bringing people together, we spark curiosity and share science in a welcoming atmosphere for all.
Read about our history in The Vision of the UWM Planetarium: Sparking Curiosity About Stars and Inspiring Community Conversations
Dr. Manfred Olson
Built in 1965, the Planetarium opened its doors 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. He also served as chair of the Physics Department for many years. Upon retiring from UWM in 1963, he became the Planetarium director and a part-time lecturer in the Physics Department.
The Planetarium Today
Dr. Jean Creighton became director of the Planetarium in 2007 with the dream of heightening its visibility by offering astronomical programs to the general public and to private groups such as scout and school groups. Dr. Creighton developed creative and engaging programs, such as the Friday Night Show, AstroBreak, stargazing, and special events. Under her directorship, interest and attendance at the Planetarium has skyrocketed, giving children and adults alike the opportunity to share in her enthusiasm and love for 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.