Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

John Motley Morehead III was interested in providing a "silk hat" for the university —a landmark building that was unlikely to be built using taxpayer funds. When a Harvard professor told Morehead, "Your state needs cosmic awakening," Morehead made the decision to build a planetarium. When it opened in 1949, the Morehead Planetarium was the first in the South and one of only six in the United States. From 1959 to 1975 the planetarium hosted training programs for U.S. astronauts, including the members of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

The planetarium expanded in 1973 with the addition of an observatory, a banquet hall, and an art gallery. The expansion also including guest quarters, with a large parlor and eight bedrooms. It has been used to host distinguished guests to campus, including Gerald Ford, Andrew Young, Martha Graham, and Princess Anne of Great Britain.

The Morehead Planetarium has always served a dual purpose: as a research laboratory for faculty and students and as a center for education for school children across North Carolina. The planetarium expanded its education and outreach work in the 2000s. In 2002 the name was changed to the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, and in 2010 the planetarium led the first annual North Carolina Science Festival.


Date Established: 1949

Date Range: 1949 – Present