Starlab - Portable Planetarium for Enthusiastic Sky-gazers

A Partnership between Dudley Observatory and Capital Region BOCES

A blue and orange logo with a star in the middle.
Capital region boces logo.
A child is standing next to a large silver ball in a room.

Who teaches the Starlab?

Starlab programming is conducted by the Dudley Astronomer at Siena College.

Our current astronomer, Dr. Mindy Townsend has a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Kansas where her dissertation focused on how very massive galaxies grow. With over 5 years experience conducting outreach and communicating science with K-12 students and the public, Dr. Townsend is excited to bring more science and astronomy out into the public sphere.

Pricing: Starlab is offered at a rate of $600 per session with a maximum of four programs. Starlab can seat 25 participants per program depending on age/size.

If you need more information or a quote for multiple/package programs, please contact us


Starlab is offered within 90 miles of Siena College campus in Loudonville, NY. If your location lies outside of this radius, please reach out to to see if alternate travel accommodations can be arranged.

A $50 fee will be assessed per hour if there is an hour or more break between programs. For instances of multiple programs, the preference is for the program to take place in the same location.

An adult chaperone must be present at all times.

How can I schedule Starlab?

Starlab can be booked by filling out a reservation form (link below) and emailing it to A representative will reach out to you to finalize your program booking. All bookings are based on the availability of staff and are made on a first come first serve basis.
If your school is a member of BOCES, you may be eligible for aid. Please contact the Capital Region BOCES at 518-464-3999 for more information.


What is Starlab?

Starlab is a portable planetarium. When unpacked and inflated, Starlab transforms into a 16-foot dome that accommodates up to 24 students, and is handicapped accessible. A projector and subject cylinders introduce participants to astronomical topics through exciting graphics projected on the dome’s interior. All that is needed is floor space, an electrical outlet, and enthusiastic sky-gazers. Starlab is great for schools, libraries, and other public organizations.

Why should I bring Starlab to my school classroom?

Starlab programs are designed to supplement district science programs in earth and space science. NYS P-12 science standards that match our programs are listed below with some of our available programs. Supplemental activities for the classroom can be downloaded here:

Starlab B-K document
Starlab C-7 document

Starlab is also a fun, experiential based learning experience. Basic concepts in astronomy can be difficult to grasp because they require imagining the solar system in 3 dimensions, and from different perspectives. Capital Region BOCES has partnered with Dudley Observatory to provide interactive planetarium programs where students explore the orbital motions that cause predictable patterns in the phases of the moon, seasons, and the changing positions of constellations in our night sky. For example, a first-grade student might predict where the sun and moon appear to rise and set, while a fifth-grade student observes and records the sun’s seasonal path through the sky.

What else do I need to know about Starlab?

There are specific room requirements for using the Starlab due to its size. The basic details are: Cleared floor space, 21 x 21 ft with a ceiling height of 11 ft and access to a power outlet. Our astronomy educators require 45 minutes for set-up before the first program to unroll and inflate the dome.

Download our detailed specifications here: StarLab Setup Requirements (PDF)

What programs are available for my learners?

As the Earth Spins Grades K-2

Why do we have night and day? Where does the sun rise and set? What will we see in the sky tonight? Students will look for patterns and make predictions based on the rotation of the Earth. 1-ESS1-1

Reasons for the Seasons Grades 3-8

Students observe and record changes in the sun’s apparent path through the sky through the year and understand why the tilt of the Earth’s axis causes the seasons. 5-ESS1-2, MS-ESS1-1

Earth and Sky Grades 3-8

The concepts of latitude and longitude are reinforced as students plot coordinates and observe the changing view of the sky from different places on Earth. Students also use observations of the Big Dipper and the North Star to tell the both the time and season. 5-ESS1-1, 5-ESS1-2

Seasonal Stargazers Grades K-8

What are constellations, and why do they change with the seasons? Students discover why the sun and other stars appear to move through the sky in predictable patterns, both daily and seasonally. 1-ESS1-1,

Andromeda to Zeus Grades 3-8

Greek mythology and seasonal constellations are show-cased, while students predict the regular motion of celestial objects. 5-ESS1-2

Custom Programs Grades K-12

Starlab instructors will work with teachers to design unique programs to meet curriculum needs. The Dudley Observatory is also available as a resource for classroom visits, telescope observing sessions, and teacher support and professional development programs.