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Family Fun At The MSUM Planetarium

Many fun and educational attractions in the F-M area often go unnoticed by many of our busy community members. As part of our newly remodeled Fargo Monthly, we aim to put a spotlight on places that are both entertaining and educational not just for kids, but for families of all ages. We saw this as an opportunity to highlight one of the many educational places in our community that often go undiscovered by many.

When looking for fun and educational places in the community, nothing came to mind faster than the beloved MSUM Planetarium. Most college students are aware of what the MSUM Planetarium is and what it consists of today, but few know about the rich history of the MSUM program and its event opportunities.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the MSUM Physics Department began advocating for a planetarium to be constructed for their campus. Former Director Dr. Walter Wesley opened the first official MSUM Planetarium in 1972, with the intention of it being primarily suited for Moorhead State College astronomy students.

Once it was built and became open for operation, the planetarium began receiving inquiries from the public about visits and shows, as it was partially funded by tax dollars. Upon opening, members of the physics faculty began doing both school and public shows before its popularity grew and took increasingly more of the faculty members’ time. Finally, the decision was made to hire the first planetarium coordinator to run and operate shows and more at the planetarium in the mid1970s.

Between 2008 and 2011, MSUM conducted a major overhaul on the planetarium, adding various improvements including new seating and a digital projector with increased capabilities. The MSUM Planetarium even has its own “Resident DJ”, Ricky Pallay a.k.a. 1PrettyRicky. According to the current Planetarium Director, Sara Schultz, “The planetarium won’t look the same to you if you haven’t been in there since.”

OTHER FUN AND EDUCATIONAL ATTRACTIONS IN THE AREA

  • Fargo Air Museum
  • Fort Abercrombie State Historic Site Roger Maris Museum
  • Comstock House
  • The Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center
  • MSUM Oceanarium
  • Plains Art Museum
  • Bonanzaville, USA

The projector’s increased planetarium capabilities now includes Solar System exploration, leaving the Earth’s surface and the ability to show “full-dome” movies that are formatted uniquely for planetariums. Schultz stated that since the planetarium’s overhaul, “[they] have pushed the boundaries of what was previously possible and considered “typical” programming for a planetarium.”

Over the years, the MSUM Planetarium has grown immensely and served thousands of people of all ages from across the region. Attendees often return time and time again for the unique shows and events that are in constant rotation. Some of these unique events include gaming, birthday parties and meditation events. Furthermore, they’re working on designing an innovative escape room as well!

With shows constantly changing throughout the year to newer and even more thrilling events, we’re beyond excited for some of the upcoming entertainment that they have on deck. According to Schultz, the “younger” space explorers won’t want to miss out on the Solar System Explorers program. She stated that the program “features their very own Solar System Passport complete with stickers for each stop along the way. Those brave enough to complete at least 3 of the 4 tours get promoted to an official Solar System Explorer with a certificate and iron-on patch to prove it!”

Most of the programs are created to be family-friendly, but there are a handful of shows that were made for younger or older audiences. For example, the Planetarium recently brought back their popular adult’s-only Romance Under The Stars show for Valentine’s Day! With a wide variety of shows available, it’s important to be aware of some of the small details in order to attend a show.

Parking may be confusing to attendees, as most college campuses have different lots with various prices and hours. Parking is free after 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, as well as all day on weekends. The closest lot to the planetarium is M3 on the south side of Bridges (where the planetarium is located), with the R1 lot (across the street) being the next most convenient. Furthermore, events and shows are ticketed, regardless of cost, as the planetarium has a limited capacity. Tickets can be ordered from the MSUM Box Office at mnstate.edu/tickets.

No matter the show you choose to attend, know that you’re in for a treat. They are continuously expanding their efforts and pushing the boundaries of what the dome can do and how it can be used. Whether you’re young, or simply young at heart, the MSUM Planetarium offers more than you can imagine!


Stars and Sounds is one that astronomy lovers of all ages will want to attend. On the first Tuesday of every month, the Planetarium’s show features a live sky tour and an introduction to finding visible constellations. Resident DJ 1 Pretty Ricky will be offering futuristic sounds to accompany the end of the show as he takes you on a tour of the sky. In the coming months, other shows include Carnival of the Animals (a multisensory experience) and Stargazers of Africa (a tour of the African sky). Needless to say, there is always something for everyone at the MSUM Planetarium!

Written by Grant Ayers

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