Bishop Planetarium is an exciting and educational attraction for Anna Maria Islanders and visitors alike.
Anna Maria Island can be a good place from which to gaze at the heavens. We are fortunate to often have excellent views of space shuttle launches, to the east. Many people on the island have chosen to use minimal outdoor lighting, and to choose fixtures that direct the light down, rather than needlessly to the sky. It’s better for sea turtles during nesting season, and it’s better for star gazers, too. The meteor showers of summer can be seen here because there is relatively little light.
In addition to what can been seen directly from the island, there is a nearby resource that adds a great deal of opportunity and education related to astronomy. The Bishop Planetarium, in downtown Bradenton, is part of a complex that includes the South Florida Museum and the Parker Manatee Aquarium.
The planetarium’s theater is a 50-foot-high dome equipped with a $1-million digital projection system, which is one of only three systems of its kind in the world. Incorporating unidirectional stadium style seating, high definition DVD, TV, and PowerPoint projection, and a digital 25,000 watt Dolby 5.1 surround sound system, the Bishop Planetarium theater is capable of presenting a wide range of programs.
In addition to special programs based on specific astronomical events, the planetarium offers programs throughout the day. Among those is “Two Small Pieces of Glass,” which shows how the telescope has brought so much of the universe to our scientists. “Extreme Planets” covers the discoveries of planets in other solar systems of the Milky Way. “The Ultimate Universe” is a stunning 80-quadrillion-mile virtual journey through the solar system.
A favorite show in the dome theater is “Live Star Talk.” An astronomer explains how to identify the stars, planets and constellations we can see from the Bradenton area, as the audience reclines in seats of the plush theater. It’s a wonderful way to enrich one’s viewing experience back on the island.
How fortunate visitors and residents are that this planetarium was rebuilt after fire destroyed in several years ago. It is located at 201 10th Street West in Bradenton. Admission is $15.95 for adults and $13.95 for seniors over sixty. This includes admission to the planetarium, the history museum and the aquarium, where Snootie the manatee lives. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 to 5 and Sunday from noon to 5.
It’s hard to believe that we, on this simple island, have such a sophisticated educational resource so near. Bradenton is full of these kinds of surprises. There is more to this small city than first meets the eye.