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Now London's only planetarium, the spectacular Peter Harrison Planetarium opened in May 2007 at the centre of the Royal Observatory site. It was designed by award-winning architects Allies and Morrison.
The Peter Harrison Planetarium and renovated South Building have now won a prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects award.
The bronze cone
‘...the Royal Observatory’s Peter Harrison Planetarium does have a sense of other-worldliness about it and an abstract, sculpted beauty, with seamless bronze coat pre-weathered to create the impression that somehow it has always been there.’
Daily Telegraph, May 2007
The planetarium cone is one of the single largest uses of bronze in the world. It is made from nearly 250 individual plates welded together and patinated to look like a single piece.
The shape of the cone is related to the stars and is unique to its location in Greenwich:
- The north side of the cone is aligned with the point in the sky perpendicular to the Greenwich local horizon (zenith)
- The sloping southern side points towards the north celestial pole (Pole star). The angle of the slope is 51º28'44", equal to the latitude of the Royal Observatory
- The top of the cone is sliced at an angle parallel to the celestial equator
- The planetarium is aligned with the local meridian (north-south line)
The sliced plane is covered in layers of reflecting glass which offer a glimpse of the changing sky and space.
The cone is made from 250mm-thick concrete to keep out sound, clad in an 8mm phosphor bronze shell. The bronze panels were prefabricated in Gateshead and brought to Greenwich in segments, where the panels were lifted into place and site-welded to achieve the precise geometry of an astronomical instrument. The bronze finish has been achieved using layers of patination which will get richer over time. The swirling patterns echo the images of nebulae shown within the planetarium.
Inside the planetarium
Inside the cone state-of-the-art HD projection technology, visualisations based on real scientific data and real astronomers take audiences on amazing tours of the night sky and distant corners of the Solar System, Galaxy and Universe.
- See details of all current planetarium shows.
Peter Harrison, CBE
The build of the Peter Harrison Planetarium was made possible by a £3.25 million gift from Peter Harrison to the National Maritime Museum in 2005, as part of the £16 million Time and Space project to improve the galleries and visitor facilities at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.
Peter Harrison has been recognised in the 2010 Queen’s Birthday honours’ list for charitable services through the Peter Harrison Foundation, which was established in 1999 and has helped countless organisations. Peter’s philanthropy has primarily focused on education and providing help and support to individuals who are disabled or disadvantaged.
The title of the Commander of the British Empire is awarded to only a small group of people each year and the National Maritime Museum is delighted that Peter’s philanthropy and generous commitment has been recognised in this most appropriate way.