Originally constructed in 1969 as part of the technologically advanced Plaza Junior High School, Virginia Beach City Public Schools Planetarium has served as the school system’s source for astronomical enrichment for 40 years. Hundreds of thousands of students and adults have passed through its doors during that time, each marveling at the night sky as projected by the Spitz ATM 5 star projection system that towers above the center of the Planetarium.
Construction costs were funded partially with the National Defense Education Act at a time when the Apollo Space Program dominated the public’s attention. The Planetarium opened on September 5, 1969, just a month and a half after the first men walked on the moon. Herb Teuscher directed the Planetarium’s activities from 1969 until his retirement in June of 2001.
Since that time, Charles Dibbs has directed the planetarium. During his tenure the planetarium has been streamlined to operate more efficiently while also being upgraded to incorporate computer and instructional technology. Presentations have been restructured to be more educational and to comply with Virginia’s standards of learning. Also, the planetarium’s reach has been expanded by hosting a variety of community activities fostering interest in Astronomy. Among these are the annual Mt. Trashmore Star Party and several Boardwalk Astronomy events held each summer with the support of the Back Bay Amateur Astronomers. A planetarium scholarship has also been originated and distributed annually to a deserving Virginia Beach high school student.