London Planetarium

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The former Planetarium, showing Tussaud's branding

The building known as the London Planetarium is in Marylebone Road, London. It is adjacent to Madame Tussauds and is owned by the same company. A famous London landmark, it was once a notable tourist attraction, housing a planetarium, which offered shows relating to space and astronomy.

It closed in 2006 as a separate attraction and is now part of Madame Tussauds. From 2010 forward, the building that once housed the London Planetarium houses the Marvel Superheroes 4D attraction.

The only planetarium in London is now the Peter Harrison Planetarium in Greenwich, south east London.


Announced in 1955, by Mr. Jacob Ruttle chairman and managing director of Madame Tussauds, it was reported that the "Board of Trade consent has been obtained for importing the necessary projecting equipment, at a cost of about £50,000, from Western Germany."[1]

In 1958 the London Planetarium was opened by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh[2] on 19 March,[3] with public presentations commencing on the 20th.[4] It occupied the site of an old cinema that was destroyed in the Second World War, and seated an audience of around 330 beneath a horizontal dome approximately 18 m in diameter. For its first five decades of operation, an opto-mechanical star projector, a Zeiss mark IV[5], offered the audience a show based on a view of the night sky as seen from earth. Between 1977 and 1990, evening laser performances called 'Laserium' (see Ivan Dryer) were held.

In 1995, one of the world's first digital planetarium systems, Digistar II (created by Evans & Sutherland) was installed in a £4.5 million redevelopment, allowing monochromatic 3D journeys through space and many other kinds of show to be presented. The planetarium was used to teach students from University College London's astronomy department the complexity of the Celestial co-ordinate system, allowing for practical lectures delivered by a team of planetarium and UCL staff.

The Planetarium in 2006

In 1986 the planetarium was mentioned in the song "Dickie Davies Eyes" by Half Man Half Biscuit, which claimed that Brian Moore's head "looks uncannily like London Planetarium."

In 2004, the Planetarium was upgraded to a full-colour Digistar 3 system that allows both pre-rendered and real-time shows to transport the audience in an immersive fulldome video environment to distant realms of time and space.

In January 2006, freelance journalist Paul Sutherland broke the news in the London Evening Standard that the London Planetarium was being renamed the Auditorium and would replace astronomical presentations with entertainment shows. Madame Tussauds subsequently announced that in July 2006 the Auditorium would open with a show by Aardman Animations about celebrities. To say 'farewell' to the planetarium, Madame Tussauds allowed free entry to the show in its penultimate, week (24–30 April 2006).


Dr Henry C. King served as Scientific Director before opening and curating the McLaughlin Planetarium in Toronto, Canada.

John Ebdon, author, broadcaster and Graecophile was director of the London Planetarium (b. 1923 – d. 2005).


The London Planetarium no longer exists and it is no longer possible to visit it as a separate attraction. The web site is redirected to Madame Tussauds and here is a statement from their web site:

"In 2006 the Planetarium was rebranded and renamed the Star Dome. The Star Dome is part of the Madame Tussauds attraction and is included in the ticket price. Please note that we no longer show astronomy-based shows"

From 2010 forward, the building that once housed the London Planetarium houses the Marvel Superheroes 4D attraction.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Planetarium for Britain -at last". Daily Mail. London. 4 January 1955. p. 3. 
  2. ^ British Pathe news coverage. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  3. ^ Lieut.-Commander R.B. Michell, "The London Planetarium" on p. 323 Record on Cambridge Core website. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  4. ^ The Observatory, Vol. 78, p. 91(1958). Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  5. ^ "London Planetarium Guide" (PDF). 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°31′22″N 0°9′20″W / 51.52278°N 0.15556°W / 51.52278; -0.15556