Prepare for an experience that is out of this world.

The State Museum of Pennsylvania's planetarium in Harrisburg is now home to the new SciDome XD, which offers full-dome video presentations and real-time astronomy simulation.

The planetarium's new high-resolution digital projection system is one of only four operating in the United States.

“It's pretty much the latest in full-dome planet technology,” said Howard Pollman, the director of external affairs at the State Museum. “We're happy to be among the first folks to have it in the country.”

Bright and bold: The XD system, which stands for extreme definition, is an upgrade, providing five times the brightness and display capabilities of the planetarium's former projector.

“It really does make a tremendous difference from what we had before,” Pollman said. “It's a brighter, bolder, much more dynamic experience.”

The SciDome XD system is produced by Spitz Inc., a planetarium manufacturer and distributor in Chadds Ford.

New shows: The State Museum has purchased two new full-dome shows to take advantage of the system's capabilities.

“We Are Astronomers,” ideal for kids in fourth grade and up, looks at the global collaboration, technology and dedication required to answer the unresolved questions of the universe.

“Legends of the Night Sky: Perseus & Andromeda,” a show aimed at the younger crowd, Pollman said, is an animated retelling of the myth of Princess Andromeda and the Greek hero Perseus.

Both shows are available through Dec. 30.

“These shows really demonstrate the capability of the SciDome with the special effects and sounds,” Pollman said. “It's a great way to get an example of what the SciDome can do.
State Museum of Pennsylvania planetarium
A group watches "We Are Astronomers" at the State Museum of Pennsylvania planetarium Dec. 7, 2012. The planetarium was recently upgraded with digital technology, and new interactive displays about space travel have been added to the entry hall. (Bill Kalina photo)

The planetarium will introduce new shows after Jan. 1, including “Legends of the Night Sky: Orion” and “Ice Worlds.”

Other attractions: In addition to the SciDome XD experience, the planetarium offers a number of other new interactive exhibits.

“Viewspace” is a direct feed from the Space Telescope Science Institute. It features the latest missions and studies involving a network of telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope.

“NASA Space Place” offers up-to-date information on NASA's research and exploration initiatives. The State Museum's collection of moon rocks also has a new installation.

According to Pollman, a trip to the museum will leave visitors nothing short of amazed.

“People who come to our planetarium will be in for an incredible experience.”

Visiting the State Museum

The State Museum of Pennsylvania, 300 North St., Harrisburg, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Planetarium shows are $2 per person in addition to general admission to the museum, which is $5 for adults and $4 for children and seniors.

For more information about the museum, including a full schedule of showtimes, visit or call (717) 787-4980.

Yorkers can also enjoy astronomy shows closer to home through the York County Astronomical Society.

Upcoming events include an “End of the World” astronomy party at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, at the John Rudy County Park observatory in East Manchester Township.

For a full schedule of events, visit or call (717) 578-9109.

— Reach Kristen Putch at