The Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium is located at the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens , with an observatory and a 12.5 metre diameter projection dome.
Access to the Planetarium is free, where you can look at the displays in the foyer and the gallery around the perimeter of the skydome, and the mini theatre near the foyer. The skydome shows and the observatory require the purchase of tickets.
The foyer has displays of interesting things relating to space. There are models of spacecraft, fragments from asteroids, and a full-size replica of Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit. The displays are at an easy viewing level for children.
The perimeter of the skydome has displays about our solar system. Starting from the sun and our planets, the gallery provides information about the planets, the moon and more. Interactive screens and displays are along the way. If you have tickets for a skydome show, the gallery is good to fill in some time and keep the kids from getting too restless.
The mini theatre is free to access with short shows displayed continuously. As the presentations are short they can be good for children who may not be able to sit still for long enough to watch a full show in the skydome. There is plenty of information to learn from the shows, including seeing images from space missions.
The Cosmic Skydome shows are the highlight of the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, although this part is not free. The skydome is a circular theatre with the screen being the dome ceiling providing a 180-degree view of the show. The seating is laid out in a circular arc and recline back to watch the show on the domed ceiling, immersing you into a surround vision of whatever the show is presenting.
There are a number of shows to choose from, ranging in the suitability of age and academic levels. There is a selection for children under six, and become increasingly more scientific. We watched Cosmic Collisions which we were all able to enjoy with the youngest aged eight.
The skydome shows include a presentation of the stars as we see them from Brisbane. We learnt about some star formations to look for at the current time of the year, and where to find them from the horizon.
The observatory is another part of the planetarium which requires tickets. Only on Saturday evenings with favourable weather conditions, the planetarium demonstrates the observatory and its telescopes. There is a minimum height of 150cm, as you won’t be able to reach the eyepiece if you are shorter.
Bookings are recommended for skydome shows and the observatory, however, we didn’t have any problems getting to watch a skydome show without a booking. The observatory may be different with a restricted opening time so I’d be inclined to make a booking.
Sir Thomas Brisbane, the namesake of the Planetarium, was an astronomer and Governor of New South Wales in 1821. He launched a search for a new convict settlement, which the city of Brisbane was named after too.
How to get there
The Planetarium is in the Botanical Gardens along Mount Coot-tha Road at Toowong, west of the city of Brisbane. Coming along Milton Rd towards the Western Fwy. After the roundabout, continue ahead in the right lane and exit after about 200m, following the brown sign to the botanic gardens. At the next roundabout, take the exit to the right onto Mount Coot-tha Rd. After 550m, the entry to the botanical gardens and the planetarium is on the left.