Fels Planetarium At The Ben Franklin Institute

Visit Fels Planetarium at the Ben Franklin Institute of Science in Philadelphia. While visiting be sure to make this stop.

In Philadelphia, it's easy to find the heart of the city. It's located - and still beating - at the Franklin Institute and Science Museum.

The museum, an impressive white building on the corner of 20th Street and the Ben Franklin Parkway, actually houses three distinct units - the Fels Planetarium, the Tuttleman IMAX Theater and the science museum itself. In the theater, educational films varying from gentle "Dolphins" to the raging "Amazon" are shown on a staggered schedule. Recent films on the four-story screen have taken museum visitors to the heart of the "Tropical Rainforest" or swimming in the deep with "Sharks." The theater usually features two or three films a day on a alternating schedule, so it is really quite possible to spend your entire visit here.

But why would you want to, when you can reach for the stars? At the Fels Planetarium, you can do just that. Created in 1933, the Fels Planetarium is the second oldest in the country - but it remains "cutting edge" and "state of the art" even now, in the 21st century. Visitors to the 330-seat auditorium are treated to a presentation of "The Sky Tonight," an educational overview of the current sky from sunset to sunrise. Constellations come alive as the magical mythical stories behind them are told in a live presentation.

Other presentations at the Plantarium include "Sunlight Moonlight," the adventures of an E.T.-like alien who finds himself lost in our galaxy and turns to earthlings for navigational tips, and "Hollywood Spheres," an intergalactic game show (with audience participation!) Every evening, the skies come alive with rock music in a laser light presentation. Featured are the Laser Pop Rox, with the music of Britney Spears, N'Sync, Christine Aguilera and other current pop stars. For classic rock fans, Pink Floyd's "The Wall" is given the laser treatment each night at midnight.

The hub of all this activity is, of course, the science museum itself. The museum's rotating special events exhibits - such as the "What Makes Music?" exhibit, which explores the development of sound into music from the Stone Age to modern day - brings in the visitors, while the regular exhibits brings them back time and time again. Permanent exhibits include the popular "Ben Franklin - He's Electric" exhibit, which celebrates the museums 175th anniversary. The exhibit, which covers everything from electricity to meteorology and from music to aquatics, celebrates Franklin's influence on the world of science - as well as his incredible curiousity.

And then there is the heart, the museum exhibit that is cited as "Most Memorable." Visitors there actually tour the inside of a giant heart, 220 times the size of their own. While the "lub lub" of a heartbeat is heard at every turn, visitors follow the path of blood circulation. You wonder through the aorta and the lungs, return to the heart and are pumped out to the rest of the body (or, in this case, to the rest of the museum.)

The Franklin Institute is opened daily from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM. Admission varies, depending on what you want to cover (the museum, the theater, the planetarium or any combination.) Memberships are available - and definitely a good deal, especially for large families or frequent visitors.

Science has come a long way from the time Ben Franklin put a key on the tail of his kite...but the museum that bears his name has kept up every steo of the way!

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