Japan Planetariums to Project Munich’s Sky of 1923 to Mark Centennial of Technology

Courtesy of the Deutsches Museum
The world’s first projector

To celebrate the centennial of the birth of modern planetariums on Saturday, more than 30 planetariums across Japan are planning to simultaneously project the starry sky as it was when projected for the first time in the world.

The event aims to share with people today the excitement that people 100 years ago experienced when they first saw the sky in a planetarium.

The world’s first planetarium was created in Germany. The German optical equipment manufacturer Carl Zeiss AG developed a device that reproduced about 4,500 stars, and the first projection was held at the Deutsches Museum in Munich on Oct. 21 in 1923.

The local starry sky was projected on a dome with a diameter of 10 meters on the roof of the museum, and the people gathered there were impressed, calling it “The Wonder of Jena” in honor of the place where the device was manufactured.

In Japan, Chiyoda Kogaku Seiko, K.K. (Chiyoda Optics and Fine Engineering Ltd.) — now Konica Minolta Inc. — and Goto Inc. developed a projector in the 1950s after the war, and planetariums have continued to spread throughout the country ever since. Currently, there are about 300 planetariums in museums and private institutions across Japan, said to account for 10% of the planetariums around the world.

The Japan Planetarium Association has organized the upcoming event, which will be held at more than 30 facilities in Tokyo, Osaka Prefecture and elsewhere. The Munich sky from 100 years ago will be projected at 7 p.m. on Saturday, and a lecture by astronaut Naoko Yamazaki and an online live broadcast with the Deutsches Museum are scheduled.

“The planetarium is a ‘door’ to the universe that anyone can go through immediately and has also helped people understand the development of astronomy over the past 100 years,” said Takeshi Inoue, director of the Akashi Municipal Planetarium in Hyogo Prefecture, which is in charge of the 100th anniversary event. “Through this event, we would like to reintroduce the appeal of planetariums.”

Courtesy of Carl Zeiss Meditec AG
A long line of spectators forms for a planetarium projection in 1924.