a multicolored image of the Orion Nebula

Our Mission

To serve Whatcom County by engaging our community in fun, interactive educational opportunities that foster a passion for astronomy and science, spark curiosity, and inspire life-long learning.

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.

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.

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.

Global Position

48 deg 44.14 min north latitude
122 deg 29.11 min west longitude

Facility Location

Dr. Leslie E. Spanel Planetarium Haggard Hall, Western Washington University, #313, Bellingham WA 98225,

We are located on the 3rd floor of the Haggard Hall Library and open by appointment only.

Parking is available in our C lot, or 6V lot. We recommend arriving ten minutes early and finding the planetarium if folks are not familiar with the location. It can take fifteen minutes to walk from our furthest parking lot.

For directions, parking, and other information, please see our Getting There page.

Please arrive with plenty of time to find parking and walk to the facility.

Meet the Planeteers

Brad Snowder

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

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.