The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, the largest fulldome planetarium in the southeastern United States, reaches more than 150,000 visitors each year with its science programs. In addition to its GlaxoSmithKline Fulldome Theater, the center includes several exhibits and the Science Stage, where visitors participate in live science demonstrations.
The center’s programs include the North Carolina Science Festival, DESTINY mobile science laboratories, PLANETS portable planetarium, summer science camps and an afterschool program for local schoolchildren. The center also has an international reputation as an award-winning producer of fulldome planetarium shows; its shows are leased by planetariums in seven countries.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the planetarium provided training for U.S. astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs — 62 astronauts, including 11 of the 12 men who walked on the Moon, trained here.
The Morehead Building opened in 1949 as a gift of John Motley Morehead III (1870-1965), class of 1891, who wanted to provide the people of his home state with the best possible resources for science education. It houses several University operations in addition to the science center — the UNC Visitors’ Center, the Morehead Observatory and its 24-inch Cassegrain reflecting telescope (operated by the University’s department of physics and astronomy), and offices for the Morehead-Cain Foundation. The UNC Visitors’ Center is a starting point for campus tours and a source of information about events throughout the University.
The grounds of the Morehead Building include a massive sundial and rose garden. The building’s rotunda (adjacent to the UNC Visitors’ Center) provides gallery space for a collection of portraits by American and European painters.
As the United State space program began, the Morehead provided training for U.S. astronauts from the Mercury program to the Apollo-Soyuz program. The building also houses special rooms for University functions, a 400-seat banquet hall, faculty meeting rooms and lounges, and facilities for administrations of Morehead Foundation programs. In 2010, the Planetarium received a $1.5 million gift from GlaxoSmithKline, supporting the conversion of the Star Theater from analog to fulldome digital video technology. In recognition of the gift, the theater was renamed the GlaxoSmithKline Fulldome Theater.