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Holcomb Observatory
Holcomb Observatory & Planetarium

Group Tours

How to Schedule

Private group tours can be scheduled by appointment for seleted dates and times.  Here's what to do:

  1. Please email holcombobservatory@butler.edu with your organization's name, date and time you are interested in,  number of anticipated guests, and a cell number as an emergency contact.  
  2. Choose your planetarium show from our list of fulldome shows that we offer and if possible please include the title of the show you would prefer in your email.  Note that most of our shows also are accompanied by educators' guides.   If you would like to choose later please indicate that in your email.
  3. Payment is made at the time of the tour.  The cost is $2 per person with a minimum of $70 payable by cash, credit card, or check made out to the Holcomb Observatory at the door.  If paying by credit card, make sure to have it with you to avoid an additional 3.5% transaction fee.  Group tours are limited to 50 guests in the planetarium. A student to adult ratio of 15:1 is required for all group visits to maintain quietness during the tour. 

What to Expect

Visitors will enjoy an hour-long tour consisting of a 3D immersive fulldome planetarium program, an interactive seasonal star planetarium show, a tour of the lobby with explanations of the symbols on the terrazo lobby floor and the stair railing, along with a visit to the telescope dome.  In the telescope dome the guide will explain and demonstrate the operation of the Holcomb Telescope.  If your tour is scheduled after sunset you'll get a chance to look through the telescope if conditions permit. 

From 2018 to early 2019 the planetarium underwent a $200,000 renovation.  It had its old Spitz AP3 star projector replaced with a fulldome Digitarium Kappa projector that projects more that 4 million pixels onto the dome of the planetarium which gives visitors a fully immersive 3D experience in addition to nicely rendering the night sky.  Beside the new projector, new comfortable theater seating, a surround sound system, new carpet, and cove lighting were added to enhance your experience with the help of Indianapolis-based Bowen Technovation.   In adition to the planetarium From 2013 to 2015 our large telescope underwent a $425,000 refurbishment by Astronomical Consultants and Equipment with a grant from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation via Frank Levinson, PhD. 

To prepare for the tour first choose a full dome planetarium show from this list of shows.   Many of these shows come with educational guides. The Sun and planets are typically included in the planetarium presentation. To learn more about the planets visit the Jet Propulsion Laboratory website. To prepare yourself for the planetarium seasonal star show it is suggested that you look at the star chart and current night sky pages. To learn about the telescopes at Holcomb Obseravtory and Planetarium look at our History and Telescopes pages.

More Information

Tour reservations will be held up to 20 minutes after your prescheduled tour time (your tour will be shortened if another tour is schedule after you). Following that your reservation is subject to cancellation and you will be charged a service fee of $25.00 per tour. If the need arises and you must cancel your tour reservation, please email holcombobservatory@butler.edu at least two business days in advance to avoid the service fee. Returned checks will be charged a service fee of $20.00. Group leaders should collect the appropriate admission fee from the group members in advance. Payment can be made either by cash, credit card, or check made out to J. I. Holcomb Observatory at the door. Payment should be given to the planetarium personnel upon entry. It is recommended that you arrive 10 minutes before your tour so that you may be seated.

Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium is located on the north end of the Butler University campus and can be reached by heading west on 46th Street from Meridian Street. Butler University Campus Map.    Patrons can utilize our parking garage for a fee or park in the Hinkle Fieldhouse lot at no charge (provided no sports or special event is scheduled).  

Wheelchair accessibility is available in the planetarium , lobby, restroom area only.  There are three sets of steps to get to the telescope.  No elevator is available to the dome where the 38-inch telescope is located.