The Annotated: Adler

One hundred thirty thousand visitors are expected to pass through the Adler Planetarium this summer, many lured by Shoot for the Moon, the permanent exhibit opening July 8th showcasing the capsule from the Gemini 12 mission crewed by the now Lake Forest restaurateur James Lovell (a.k.a. Tom Hanks in Apollo 13) and Buzz Aldrin. Here’s the scoop on an iconic Chicago building, which was named for Max Adler, a Sears, Roebuck executive who donated the money to build the museum.

Shows are projected on the 68-foot-wide inner surface of the dome. When the Adler, designed by Ernest Grunsfeld, opened to the public in 1930, it was the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere. Grunsfeld’s grandson is an astronaut who has been on four Space Shuttle missions.

At 90,000 square feet, the Adler is one of the largest planetarium buildings in the world.

 
 A. The Doane Observatory houses a 20-inch reflecting telescope, the largest in the Chicago area. It is open for public viewing on the first Friday of every month.
 B. The Henry Moore sundial Man Enters the Cosmos, situated in a plaza just north of the building entrance, is a bowstring equatorial sundial, so called because the shadow-casting gnomon resembles a bowstring. The position of the shadow on the crossbar gives the time (when it’s sunny), after a few minutes are added or subtracted according to instructions at the base of the sundial.
 C. At each junction between sides of the original 12-sided building, a bronze bas-relief panel depicts a sign of the zodiac. The panels were created by Alfonso Ianelli, an Italian émigré. The building’s rainbow granite was mined from a quarry in Cold Spring, Minnesota. The stone for the 1999 addition came not just from the same quarry, but from the same part of the quarry, according to Adler astronomer Larry Ciupik.
 The Adler sits at the northeast end of Northerly Island, the now-misnamed peninsula that used to include the runway for Meigs Field. In Daniel Burnham’s original plan for the lakefront, Northerly Island was to be the northernmost of a chain of islands, but no others were ever created.
Photography: Background Precision
Aerial photo, insets Craig Stillwell /Adler Planetarium

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