If you want to do some stargazing but it’s too cold or cloudy outside, the Smith Planetarium in Chickamauga is the perfect solution.

It is funded by Walker County Schools and other partners and is open to school field trips, civic groups and the public. It is the largest planetarium in our area from the Tellus Museum north of Atlanta all the way to Nashville.

For the winter season, they are offering a special planetarium show open to the public called "Season of Light.” The program is about the origins and traditions behind Christmas and Hanukkah.

"Traditions like a Christmas tree, a wreath, holly, mistletoe, how these things came to be associated with Christmas, so it talks about the old pagan solstice holidays," John Hart, Director of the Smith Planetarium said. 

It also includes how ancient cultures observed the stars to watch for seasonal changes. 

Before the "Season of Light" special show, visitors get a tour of the night sky inside the planetarium, learning locations of constellations and planets that you can see right here in our area.

"If you've ever been to an IMAX theater, you know you have the big screen in front of you. Well, imagine an IMAX that wraps around you 360 degrees. It's basically a hemispherical screen,” Hart said.  

The winter special shows are on Sunday, December 2nd, 9th, and 16th at 2:30 pm and Tuesday, December 4th, 11th, and 18th at 7:30 pm in the evening. Tickets are $5.00 for adults and $4.00 for children. Preschool age and under are free. Last year, they had about 2,000 visitors for the programming.

After planetarium shows on nice nights, they will also set up telescopes outside for people to view the stars and planets directly.
           
"We have programs that cover everything from the solar system to galaxies, the moon, cycles of the moon, the tides," Hart added.

In addition to the planetarium, they also have an extensive rock and mineral collection with about 10,000 specimens. Their goal is to educate, and in the future, to expand to a comprehensive science and agriculture center.

"It's all about increasing what we have to offer to the local community and finding better ways to support our students and teachers," Hart explained.
           
Outside the special holiday schedule, the Smith Planetarium hosts school field trips. Community organizations may also contact the planetarium directly for group reservations by calling 706-375-7827 or by sending an email

The planetarium is regularly on the first Sunday afternoon of the month at 2:30 pm and the last Tuesday evening at 7:30 pm for public showings during the school year.