Free Public Shows
Under normal operating conditions, shows are offered free to the public, Monday-Friday, at 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. No tickets or reservations are required. These shows are available on a first come, first serve basis. There are 110 seats with additional space for wheelchairs. No pets are allowed; however, service animals specifically trained to aid a person with a disability are welcome. Food, drinks and gum are strictly prohibited at all times.
Shows are subject to cancellation without notice due to inclement weather and cadet education. The Planetarium is closed on weekends, graduation day and Federal holidays.
|Dream Big: Engineering our World
|Apollo 11: First Steps Edition
Great Bear Rainforest
Under normal operating conditions, Elementary, Middle and High Schools may reserve shows for their students on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Shows are typically followed by a 30 minute interactive presentation with a professional astronomer. When requesting a school visit, teachers may select from one of the following shows for their students.
- Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity
- Eclipses and Phases of the Moon
- Experience the Aurora
- Journey to the Centre of the Milky Way by ESO
- Two Small Pieces of Glass
The Planetarium was originally built in 1959 and is one of the oldest structures at the U.S. Air Force Academy. With seats surrounding the perimeter and a large projector in the center, the Planetarium was initially used to teach celestial navigation classes to cadets. Due to rapidly advancing computing technology, cadets no longer had a need to navigate by the stars and this resulted in its closure in 2004.
After 15 years of sitting vacant, a passionate group of Academy leaders with the support of private donors spearheaded an effort to not only refurbish the structure, but advance the technology and capabilities inside to serve a new generation of cadets leading the way in space. Although the exterior remains virtually identical to its previous incarnation due to its historical status, the interior now features reclining theater seats and a series of projectors built into the walls that offer a 360-degree near-hemispheric screen to deliver a visually immersive field-of-view to audiences.
On March 4, 2019, the Planetarium officially reopened to the public, welcoming over 45,000 visitors in its first year of operation, including 4,000 K-12 students. With a new mission to enhance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) outreach to the local community, it quickly became a top-rated attraction and tourist destination in Colorado Springs. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been temporarily closed to the public.
To visit the Planetarium, use exit 156 off Interstate 25 and enter the U.S. Air Force Academy through the North Gate. You will need your driver’s license or military ID and proof of vehicle insurance to enter the base. Please be prepared for potential security measures such as vehicle inspections. Foreign national visitors with a passport will need to go to the Pass & Registration Center, just outside the South Gate at exit 150, to obtain a pass. For more information, click here.
Once on base, continue driving straight on Academy Drive for 4 miles and then turn left to park in the visitor lot for Arnold Hall. To the north of the visitor parking, there is a building with a white dome – that’s the Planetarium! Please follow the steps to the front door or use the winding path to the left of the steps for handicapped access.
Journey to a land of grizzlies, coastal wolves, sea otters and the all-white spirit bear — the rarest bear on earth — in the film Great Bear Rainforest. Hidden from the outside world, the Great Bear Rainforest is one of the wildest places left on earth. Found on Canada's remote Pacific coast, it is the last intact temperate rainforest in the world—a place protected by the region's indigenous people for millennia. Now, for the first time ever, experience this magical world in IMAX and giant screen theatres, and discover the land of the spirit bear.
Narrated by Ryan Reynolds
Run Time: 40 minutes
Volcanoes are responsible for creating the conditions for life to flourish on Earth, but they unpredictably still create through destruction. An adventurous photographer attempts a descent into a fiery crater.
Run Time: 42 minutes
ASTRONAUT takes you from Earth into space... and beyond. Experience a rocket launch from inside the body of an astronaut. Explore the amazing worlds of inner and outer space, from floating around the International Space Station to maneuvering through microscopic regions of the human body. Discover the perils that lurk in space as we subject 'Chad,' our test astronaut, to everything that space has to throw at him. ASTRONAUT is an experience like nothing on Earth.
Run Time: 24 minutes
Humpback Whales is an extraordinary journey into the mysterious world of one of nature's most awe-inspiring marine mammals. Set in the waters of Alaska, Hawaii and the remote islands of Tonga, this ocean adventure offers audiences an up-close look at how these whales communicate, sing, feed, play and take care of their young. Found in every ocean on earth, humpbacks were nearly driven to extinction 50 years ago, but today are making a slow but remarkable recovery. Join a team of researchers as they find out why humpbacks are the most acrobatic of all whales, why they sing their haunting songs, and why these intelligent, 55-foot, 50-ton animals migrate up to 10,000 miles round-trip every year.
Run Time: 40 minutes
This is more than an eclipse show—it supports NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) curriculum, including:
- Phases of the Moon
- Solar and Lunar Eclipses
- Moon Lit by Reflected Sunlight
- Moon's Rotational Period and Orbit
- Scale/Orientation of Earth-Moon System
- Composition of the Lunar Surface
- Shape of the Solar System
Target Audience: Students age 8+ and general audience
Run Time: 20 minutes
John (“Otter”) Stratton is a young American fighter pilot who flies the F-15 Eagle, arguably the most potent and successful fighter plane ever built. His grandfather was a decorated World War II flying ace, and he intended to follow in his footsteps. At Red Flag, the international training exercise for air forces of allied countries, many of the world’s best pilots meet for the most challenging flying of their careers. Red Flag is the final training for pilots and their aircrews before being sent into actual combat. We follow our young pilot as he makes his way through this extraordinary event held in the desert of Nevada.
Run Time: 40 minutes
Over seven months in the Arctic Circle, our crews captured timelapse images of the Aurora Borealis with high resolution digital SLR cameras outfitted with fisheye lenses. The results are spectacular. For the first time, the aurora has been captured as it was meant to be experienced, as a display that covers the entire sky. This immersive show shares the science behind the aurora and tells the story of the quest to find and photograph the aurora to show in planetariums. Winner of 2 Telly Awards.
Run Time: 27 minutes
Dreams of flying, model aircraft and a young girl and her grandfather come together in this multi-media planetarium show about the science of aeronautics. Learn about famous inventors and aviators of the past and the pioneers who first revealed the four forces of flight. See images of aircraft past, present and future and imagine where flight might take us.
Run Time: 22 minutes
Narrated by Academy Award ® winner Jeff Bridges, Dream Big: Engineering Our world is a first of its kind film that will transform how we think about engineering. From the Great Wall of China and the world’s tallest building, to underwater robots, solar cars and smart, sustainable cities, Dream Big celebrates the human ingenuity behind engineering marvels big and small, and reveals the heart that drives engineers to create better lives for people around the world.
Run Time: 42 minutes
Galileo’s telescopic observations began a revolution, transforming our views of the cosmos and our place within it. It’s a revolution which, four hundred years later, continues. Today you can attend star parties where amateur astronomers set up their telescopes for public viewing. Views through such telescopes would have amazed Galileo. Two Small Pieces of Glass puts you in the middle of a modern star party. Discover the wonders that even a small amateur telescope can reveal and learn about the scientists that made such views possible.
Run Time: 23 minutes
Seen by millions worldwide, Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity is one of the most successful planetarium shows ever produced. This cutting-edge production features high-resolution visualizations of cosmic phenomena, working with data generated by computer simulations to bring the current science of black holes to the dome screen. Audiences will be dazzled with striking, immersive animations of the formation of the early universe, star birth and death, the collision of giant galaxies, and a simulated flight to a super-massive black hole luring at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Narrated by Liam Neeson.
Run Time: 24 minutes
What lies at the heart of our galaxy? For twenty years, ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the Keck telescopes have observed the center of the galaxy, looking at the motion of more than a hundred stars and identifying the position of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Embark on a Journey to the Centre of the Milky Way and travel faster than light from the driest place on Earth, the Atacama Desert in Chile, right to the center of our own galaxy, where a black hole is consuming anything that strays into its path. 84 million stars will appear in front of your eyes, each hiding mysteries waiting to be solved. Are there planets around them, perhaps with moons? Do they have water? Could they harbor life?
Run Time: 7 minutes
A “public service announcement” planetarium show introduces and illustrates some of the issues regarding light pollution, and suggests three simple actions people can take to help mitigate it. The show educates the public about the problems of light pollution and the responsible use of lighting.
Run Time: 7 minutes
Today’s robots are nothing short of astonishing. Those coming in the not-too-distance future are simply revolutionary—and they are becoming eerily like us. What does it take to make a humanoid robot—a robot that can do anything we can do without the benefit of a human brain? How close are scientists to replicating some of the particularly challenging human characteristics? Why are we even attempting to create humanoids in the first place? ROBOTS answers these questions and more as it showcases the latest developments—the successes and failures—of robotics around the world. ROBOTS is a fascinating and fun look at what makes us human, how far machines can really go to look and act like us, and how humanoids are already changing our world.
Run Time: 39 minutes
Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins blasted away from Earth on a Saturn V rocket on July 16, 1969. On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin set foot on the moon, the first humans to do so. The three returned to Earth on July 24.
The filmmakers reconstruct the exhilarating final moments of preparation, liftoff, landing and return of this historic mission—one of humanity’s greatest achievements and the first to put men on the moon. With a newly-discovered trove of never-before-seen footage and audio recordings, Apollo 11: First Steps Edition joins Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the Mission Control team and millions of spectators around the world, during those momentous days and hours in 1969 when humankind took a giant leap into the future.
Run Time: 48 minutes
Join an immersive adventure to experience the life-saving superpowers and extraordinary bravery of some of the world’s most amazing dogs. In this inspiring true story narrated by Chris Evans, our best friends are also real-life superheroes. Journey around the globe to meet remarkable dogs who save lives and discover the powerful bond they share with their human partners. Follow ‘Halo’, a rookie puppy training to join one of the most elite disaster response teams in America. Meet ‘Henry’, an avalanche rescue expert in the mountains of British Columbia, ‘Reef’, a Newfoundland lifeguard with the Italian coastguard, ‘Ricochet’, a Californian surf legend helping people with special needs, and the Bloodhound brothers, ‘Tipper and Tony’, who are leading the fight to save endangered species in Africa. As we discover the incredible abilities of dogs and the astonishing science behind their superpowers, we’ll never look at our best friends the same way again!
Run Time: 47 minutes