It's located here in the very heart of California on the Fresno State campus. It is right on the campus grounds, at the cornerof Maple and San Ramon just off of Barstow, just north of the Science building.
The Planetarium has a 74-seat star theater with a 30-foot dome. The planetarium shows are run with a Minolta MS-8 star projector, two video projectors, and 29 slide projectors all controlled by a computer program.
Public programs in the planetarium star theater are on selected Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons, although shows can be scheduled for private and school groups during the week, and the parking is free for weekend shows. The Planetarium offers over 20 different shows geared towards different age groups from pre-kindergarten through adult.
For example, there is the BEAR TALES for grades K-3rd, which introduces children to the constellations and the Greek mythology associated with those constellations. This program also covers the importance of the North Star and the daily motion of the stars.
There is also DRAGON SKIES (4th-7th), about a young boy Emperor of China who does not see the importance of learning astronomy from his tutor until one night the Great Azure Dragon of the East comes to life and takes him on a magical journey through the stars. As we experience this journey with him, we learn about the importance of astronomical observations to the ancient Chinese culture, hear one of their legends associated with the stars, and even experience a supernova which was well documented by Chinese astronomers in 1054 A.D.
There are several shows that appeal to adults as well, such as MARSQUEST (5th - Adult) which traces the history of Mars from the early observations of Schiaparelli and Lowell, whose imagined "canals" inspired science fiction stories about Martians, to modern observations and mission findings from Viking, Pathfinder, and Mars Global Surveyor, which have given us new insight into the climate, weather, and terrain on the Red Planet. The show also examines the possibility of human exploration on Mars, examining where on Earth we can prepare for future crewed missions, and what the first landing may be like.
If you are unfamiliar with astronomy, but always wanted to learn, they offer free stargazing on Friday nights. It takes place outside the planetarium. And you get to see stuff like double star systems, planets, nebulae, and star clusters. They have instructors there to assist you in finding what you want to see.
Even their lobby is cool. There is a photograph of comet Hale-Bopp, a solar system scale and an elements scale, a gravity well, and a sundial. On the other side are display cases with science toys and meteorites.
Finally they have a gift shop that sells posters, T-shirts, bookmarks, and all kinds of science toys. What more could you ask for?
The tickets are only $5 dollars for adults, $4.00 for seniors and children and students with ID pay $2.50
The Downing Planetarium is located at 5320 N. Maple Ave. For more info call 559-278-4121.