Moscow Planetarium

Mikhail Dzhaparidze/ТАSS
The Moscow Planetarium was designed by architects Mikhail Barshch and Mikhail Sinyavsky, and construction was completed in 1929. The parabolic dome with a diameter of 25 metres (82 feet), which thickness does not exceed 12 centimetres (5 inches), stands over the 1,440-seat auditorium. It was the first such installation in the Soviet Union. In 2011, following a lengthy reconstruction in accordance with Alexander Anisimov's design, the whole building was raised by six meters to accommodate the technical rooms. The rare Carl Zeiss projector made in the 1920s specifically for the Moscow Planetarium was replaced with a digital one. Today this is one of the favourite recreation spots both for the city residents and for tourists who come to Moscow with their kids.

The Planetarium, officially a scientific and educational institution, is not that different from an amusement park with its mind-boggling Large and Small Stellar Rooms, Urania Museum, the interactive Lunarium Museum, Sky Park, observatory and 4D cinema. It is advisable to plan your visit beforehand, as it is not easy to orientate oneself spontaneously amid the Planetarium's miracles. Perhaps the best place to start is the show in the Large Stellar Room. Tickets are available online. One hour before the show, ticket holders will be taken on a tour of the Urania Museum, which is of two rooms. In the first room, they will tell you about the history of the Planetarium and of space exploration. In the second room, the composition of the Solar System is displayed on a tilted ramp, with correctly arranged planet semi-spheres. Planet globes are also on display along with a unique collection of meteorite fragments.

In the Large Stellar Room, which has the biggest starry dome in the world, they will show educational video projections about telescopes, astronomers, the Solar System, the mysteries of Mars and of the Universe, and certain earthly phenomena, such as volcanoes. The programmes change, and updates are posted on the Planetarium website. The chairs in the theatre house are almost like beach chairs as people have to look up at the dome ceiling. The best seats are in the middle and in the back rows. After the show, the ticket holders are invited to proceed to the Astro-Pad of the Sky Park. On display here is a collection of quaint old and contemporary astronomical observation devices, and there are two observatories: Large and Small. Visitors are allowed to look through the powerful telescopes, but only when the sky is clear.

It is better to buy the ticket onsite for the interactive Lunarium Museum. The ticket is good all day, and you can leave and return any number of times. The exhibits are arranged in two rooms – Astronomy and Physics and Getting to Know Space – on two floors. In the first room, the laws of physics are illustrated in a graphic and creative way. Here you can compose your own space music on a sophisticated synthesizer, and you can generate some clouds entirely on your own. The second room imitates a space station of many sections, each with its own exciting adventure, e.g. saving the Earth from asteroids, comparing observation data from different telescopes, writing a letter to aliens, and piloting a Mars rover. Europe's largest Foucault Pendulum is also here, offering proof every hour that the Earth does actually go round.

In the comfortable 4D theatre they will show some light-hearted short films on space subjects, or take you on a virtual space rollercoaster ride. The Planetarium is next door to the Moscow Zoo, so if you think you can do both, you might as well buy a combined ticket and see the stars and the beasts the same day.