What is a Planetarium?
A planetarium is a theater you can go to learn about astronomy and our universe!
These theaters have a domed roof, onto which is projected a simulation of the night sky, planets, nebula, and more, and are usually accompanied by a presenter who is there to tell you about the topic of the day.
In response to Covid-19 we will not be using our facility and have instead adapted our programming to an online format! Now you'll get to view the universe and talk to the presenter all from the comfort of your own home! And on a plus side, you'll get to have that popcorn, which usually isn't allowed in a planetarium.
We are also currently offering virtual presentations for private and school groups. Please visit our virtual offerings page for more information.
To find out how to get involved or learn more, see our resources page
About Western's Planetarium
The Dr. Leslie E. Spanel Planetarium has been in Haggard Hall since 1959, where the original projector was a Spitz Model A-2 "pinhole" star projector. The dome is 24 feet in diameter and has seating for 45 plus floor space for wheel chairs. In October of 2013 the planetarium received the name of Dr. Leslie E. Spanel Planetarium, in memory of Western's longtime professor of Physics who passed away in 2002. Spanel's wife, former State Sen. Harriet Spanel, donated funds for the Digistar projector and other planetarium upgrades in the husbands memory. In 2021, the Spanel Planetarium's request for funding was granted by Westerns Student Technology Fee. This allowed us to upgrade to Digistar 7 in October of 2021. See the timeline for the planetarium here.
The Planetarium, on Western's main campus, sits on Coast Salish territory of the Lummi Nation (Lhaq'temish) and Nooksack Indian Tribe (Nuxwsa'7aq). Meet Laural Ballew, Westerns American Indian/Alaska Native and First Nations Relations Executive Director and Tribal Liaison, at their tribal relations webpage.
48 deg 44.14 min north latitude
122 deg 29.11 min west longitude
Haggard Hall 313 at Western Washington University
From the Haggard Hall circulation desk, head up the stairs or take the elevator to the third floor and turn right. Head down that aisle until you get to the second gray door on the right that says "Spanel".
Please don't knock, there may be a show in progress.
The facility is currently by appointment only.
Please arrive with plenty of time to find parking and walk to the facility.
Woman's and men's restrooms can be found on the same floor, the closest gender neutral restrooms are in the Viking Union. More information can be found at the LGBTQ+ Western website.
Meet the Planeteers
Brad Snowder is a graduate of Western Washington University with a bachelor of science degree in Physics with an emphasis in Astrophysics, and with a master's degree in Science Education. He holds the Astronomical League's certificates for the Herschel 400 and the Messier deep sky observing programs. Brad teaches college astronomy courses and has a special dedication to preserving cultural starlore.
Ryann Burton is a graduate of Western Washington University with a bachelors in Environmental Education and minor in Leadership Studies. She has been working in planetariums since 2013, and at the Spanel Planetarium since 2017. When she's not in a planetarium, Ryann can often be found exploring the North Cascades and pointing out birds and plants to unsuspecting passersby.