The Argus Planetarium opened in 1956. It is the oldest known public school planetarium in continuous operation in the US. The Argus Planetarium was paid for by a generous donation from the Argus Camera Company and built inside of Pioneer High School. The original planetarium contained a Spitz A-1 star projector under a 24 foot diameter canvas dome. With 63 seats in a circular pattern, the Argus Planetarium hosted several hundred thousand visitors over the next 46 years.
The planetarium has had many important visitors over the years. These included Dr. James Bryant Conant and Sidney Chapman. According to Dr. Rosemergy, "Conant was a renowned organic chemist, President of Harvard University, U.S. High Commissioner to Germany at the end of WW II, and chairman of a committee which organized the A-Bomb Manhattan Project. Conant came to Ann Arbor High School while gathering material for his 1959 report 'The American High School Today.' This publication was much anticipated and quite influential for a time. Another distinguished visitor in the early days was Sidney Chapman, who attended a lecture. Chapman was a British geophysicist, holder of the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, and President of the International Geophysical Year. He was at the University of Michigan for a few weeks and once addressed our city-wide science staff. You'll recall that the big event of the IGY was to be the launch by the U.S. of a grapefruit-sized satellite in Project Vanguard. Instead, and with no preliminary fanfare, the Soviets launched Sputnik, which astonished, embarrased, and frightened the U.S. - and which lead to big changes in science education."
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