Museum of Brisbane

Sunday Stories | Planetarium, Mt Coot-tha

Named after the former New South Wales governor, Sir Thomas Brisbane, the Planetarium is an homage to the governor’s passion for astronomy for which he is remembered. A scientific expert in his own right, Sir Thomas Brisbane’s exploration of our Southern skies resulted in the cataloguing of 7385 stars. However, not all his peers shared his enthusiasm for astronomical discovery – with Lord Bathurst, Secretary of State for the Colonies, pithily remarking that he wished for someone to run the colony, not the heavens. 

Located in the lush surrounds of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Toowong, the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium opened its doors to the public on the 24th May 1978. It features a superb 12.5m diameter Cosmic Skydome (hemispherical planetarium theatre), which was refurbished in 2013 with a new optical star projector. In its foyer, there are multiple attractions and historical artefacts that can be explored including fragments of asteroids, spacecraft models and a well-known replica of Neil Armstrong’s Apollo spacesuit. 

In 2018, the Planetarium introduced a new exhibition called, Skylore: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Astronomy. The exhibit was sourced and curated by Monash University astronomer Dr Duane Hamacher in close consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from Brisbane, Katherine in the Northern Territory, Murray Island in the Torres Strait and Goodooga in New South Wales. In fact, in traditional language, Mt Coot-tha is known as Kuta, meaning a place of wild or black honey, or a place of many hives of wild sting-less native bees.

With approximately 130,000 visitors a year, it’s no wonder why The Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium is still one of our city’s star attractions. 

Image 1: The Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium – Sky Theatre, 1985, courtesy Brisbane City Council. Image 2: Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium Foyer – Toowong. 1978, Courtesy Brisbane City Council, Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium – Mt Coot-tha, 1978, courtesy Brisbane City Council.