The Planetarium in Varna known as the “Nicolaus Copernicus” National Observatory and Planetarium is the first astronomical complex in Bulgaria and the biggest and most modern planetarium in the Balkans. The popularization of astronomy among citizens is achieved by special lectures in the sky theatre of the planetarium and by articles and interviews in the mass media. The Varna Planetarium is one of the most famous attractions in the city. Located just beside the entry of the Sea garden, it is visited by thousands of tourists.
History of the Planetarium
The launching of the Earth's first artificial satellite on 4th October 1957 caused great interest among groups of enthusiasts in Bulgaria who started astronomy and cosmonautics clubs all over the country. In 1960 a group of enthusiasts from Varna too created an astronautics and astronomy club, which made a proposal that the regular XIII Congress of the International Aviation and Astronomy Federation be held in September 1962 in the city of Varna. None other than German Titov, the second Soviet astronaut was the official guest of this congress. After the congress the idea of building an astronomical observatory in Varna gained ground, which was developed further by the then mayor of Varna, Nikolai Boyadzhiev and many other government officials. In 1963 the astronautics and astronomy club was given a building in the central part of the Sea Garden.
The first astronomy and rocket modeling courses were conducted in this building. In 1964 the construction of a new building of the observatory began. Next to the building of the observatory, the Varna Planetarium with a sky theatre and a spacious lecture hall were built.
The official opening ceremony of the first astronomical complex in Bulgaria consisting of an observatory, a planetarium and a tower with Foucault pendulum was held on 22nd May 1968. Following a decision by the Bulgarian Council of Ministers, the complex was named after the great Polish scientist Nicolaus Copernicus. Nikolai Petrov was the director of the observatory from its creation till the year of 1989.
Features of the Planetarium
In the sky theatre of the planetarium a ZKP (Zeiss Klein planetarium) projector is installed, which projects 5500 stars on a hemispherical dome with a diameter of 10.5 meters. The positions of the Sun, the Moon and the planets among the stars are demonstrated with the help of additional projectors. Special projectors demonstrate the movement of the planets round the sun from a viewpoint situated 5 billion km away on the polar axis of the ecliptic. Diaprojectors for visualizing the lectures are also used.
The Varna observatory was awarded a memorable medal by the country of Poland for its immense contribution to the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of Copernicus. Two specialists were also invited to take part in a congress of the International Astronomy Union in Warsaw.
The prime minister Simeon Sakskoburggotski together with the vice prime minister Nikolai Vasilev (who is an ex-alumnus of the observatory) opened the reconstructed building of the National Astronomy Observatory and Planetarium “Nicolaus Copernicus” on the 15th of August 2002.
Visits and Courses
The observatory organizes special visits for people interested in learning more about astronomy. The principles of astronomy are explained and demonstrations of the night sky are made during such visits.