In-Depth Report

Civic Infrastructure & Facilities Summary

Patrick Chase
Sep 05 2021
The ‘civic space’ sector describes the public facilities and institutions that offer educational programming to the communities they serve. They are a key public interface for the New York space sector and serve as a vehicle for inspiring the next generation of space students and enthusiasts.

New York has more than 100 planetariums, observatories, museums, and schools involved in space exploration and astronomy that make up its civic space sector. These institutions are key members of their communities, providing unique and invaluable resources to residents of all ages. They also serve as hubs for research, development, and education, which in turn generates economic activity and creates jobs.

Every region of New York has a number of these institutions, and communities large and small from every corner of the state are benefiting everyday from their presence. This report will provide a brief overview of the various types of institutions in the Empire Space data tables, as well as a brief regional overview.

First, a few quick descriptions of the types of institutions Empire Space has included in this analysis:

Planetarium- A large domed theater-style room where various celestial objects (constellations, galaxies, etc…) are projected on the ceiling for educational and entertainment purposes. New York is home to a variety of planetariums, including large facilities with secondary exhibits that host thousands of yearly visitors, to small educational facilities attached to middle or high schools.

Observatory- A dedicated facility that hosts a telescope or other instruments designed to observe celestial objects such as planets, comets, stars, and galaxies. New York is home to numerous observatories, including large facilities attached to major Universities, as well as small community facilities managed by non-profit or volunteer organizations.

Launch Site- A dedicated outdoor range used by established organizations certified for the launching of large amateur rockets. New York is home to some prominent amateur rocket launch sites, primarily in the Finger Lakes region and Central New York.

Museum/Science Center- An educational facility with multiple exhibits and programs centered around learning and knowledge. New York has multiple museums that involve space and astronomy related programming, some exclusively and others on a less substantial basis.

Most of these facilities are either directly managed by an academic institution or partner with one in a significant way. Colleges, high schools, and middle schools throughout the state host planetariums and observatories to enrich the experience of their students, and Empire Space hopes more institutions will do so in the future.

This report will briefly summarize the institutions throughout the state grouped by region, painting a picture of the unique civic space assets the various communities of New York have at their disposal. For a detailed listing of each institution, along with relevant hyperlinks and superlative data, visit our Data page.

Western NY

Western New York hosts numerous planetariums and observatories in the greater Buffalo area, with outlying communities such as Lockport, Allegany, Alfred, and Frewsburg home to significant facilities.

There are prominent academic Observatories at Alfred State College and St. Bonaventure University. The Lackawanna, Williamsville, and Cheektowaga school districts all host planetariums for student use, offering a truly unique and inspiring asset to thousands of young people throughout the region. The Buffalo Museum of Science is the flagship museum in the region, with smaller centers in various communities.

The civic space infrastructure is thoroughly spread throughout the region, with every local Assembly and Senate district hosting at least one facility, demonstrating the diverse communities that host these assets.

Together these facilities employ dozens of Western New Yorkers, host thousands of visitors a year, and provide powerful lifelong lessons to thousands of local students. Western New York has a vibrant, diverse, and well distributed civic space network that enriches the broader community each and every day.

Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes Region is home to a diverse array of civic space sector resources, both in the heart of metro Rochester and throughout the wider lakes region. The majority of the region's civic assets are affiliated with prominent higher education institutions, while amateur rocket launch sites also feature prominently.

The Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Brockport, and SUNY Geneseo all have on campus planetariums and/or observatories for research and educational purposes while the University of Rochester has observatories down in the lakes region. The Rochester Museum and Science Center and Strasenburgh Planetarium offer robust programming and deep community partnerships for the entire region.

The Finger Lakes are home to two prominent amateur rocket launch sites in the upper lakes region, one in Geneseo and another in Penn Yan. Both offer regular public launches and have relationships with youth groups throughout the region. The Geneseo site is authorized for launches up to 12,000 feet in altitude. With decades of launch history, substantial capabilities, a track record of success, and a prominent community presence, the Finger Lakes Region is the amateur rocket hub of the state.

The civic space sector is represented by a diverse range of representatives from both parties in rural, suburban, and urban districts in both chambers of the legislature.

The Finger Lakes Region has a diverse and well established civic space sector, with prominent universities playing a major role and amateur rocket launch facilities serving as a truly unique regional asset.

Central New York

The civic space sector in Central New York is largely centered around metro Syracuse, with outlying towns hosting an Observatory and an amateur rocket launch site.

The Darling Hill Observatory south of the city is operated by the Syracuse Astronomical Society, with a 40 year track record of public events. Both the Fayetteville and Southern Cayuga school districts host planetariums for student enrichment. The Milton Rosenstein Museum of Science & Tech is the region's flagship museum, while the Syracuse Rocket Club conducts launches at a farm to the northwest of the city.

The civic space sector is represented by a diverse set of members in both chambers of the legislature, representing the diverse communities the sector resides in.

Central New York possesses institutions in every category of the civic space sector, enriching the entire region and establishing a foundation for future local growth in the civic space sector.

Southern Tier

The Southern Tier region is home to some significant civic space resources, primarily in the Observatory and Museum/Science Center categories. Most of these institutions are located around either Binghamton or Ithaca.

The Roberson Museum & Science Center as well as the Kopernik Science Center & Observatory provide enriching educational experiences year round to the greater Binghamton area, while the Eileen Collins Observatory is operated by Cornell Community College further to the west.

Ithaca is home to an intense concentration of civic space sector resources, due primarily to the presence of Cornell University and Ithaca College. The Fuertes, Clinton B. Ford, and Hartung-Boothroyd Observatories provide research and educational opportunities for the region's higher education students while the Sciencenter in downtown Ithaca offers interactive community engagement programs.

Every member of the Legislature in the Southern Tier has a civic space institution in their district, demonstrating just how widespread this infrastructure is throughout the region.

The Southern Tier is home to a dense concentration of civic space sector assets, offering the region unique educational benefits and laying the groundwork for future growth.

North Country

The North Country is blessed with some of the darkest skies New York has to offer, and the region possesses the civic space infrastructure to match.

The Adirondack Sky Center & Observatory in Tupper Lake is a premiere destination for anyone with a passion for stargazing and astronomy. SUNY Potsdam is home to both the Reynolds Observatory and the Stowell Planetarium, while Ticonderoga High School has a planetarium on campus for student use.

Watertown hosts the SciTech Center of Northern New York, while Plattsburgh hosts the Northcountry Planetarium. Both facilities offer year round space programming in some of the furthest reaches of Upstate New York.

Every member of the Legislature in the Southern Tier has a civic space institution in their district, demonstrating just how widespread this infrastructure is throughout the region.

The North Country has significant civic space sector assets, and when combined with the region's natural beauty and dark skies, it's clear this is a region to watch as the future unfolds.

Mohawk Valley

The Mohawk Valley is usually defined by its position straddling the Erie Canal, but it is also home to a cluster of Observatories that define the region's civic space sector.

Oneonta is home to the AJ Reed Science & Discovery Center, while the Oneida-Herkimer-Madison Boces school district actually has a portable planetarium for use (dependent on staffing).

There are 4 astronomical observatories throughout the Mohawk Valley region. The SUNY Oneonta Observatory, the Foggy Bottom Observatory, and the Peters Observatory are all collegiate facilities used primarily by students. The Barton-Brown Observatory in Waterville is located at the public library and serves the public.

Civic space infrastructure is represented by a diverse set of legislators in Albany, with some representatives having significant concentrations of institutions in their districts.

The civic space sector in the Mohawk Valley is heavily tilted towards Observatories, a unique profile among all the regions of New York.

Capital Region

The civic space sector around Albany is diverse and well established, offering numerous educational and scientific benefits to the Capital Region of New York.

The Breyo and Hirsch Observatories are connected to prominent universities (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Siena College), offering research opportunities for college students.

A diverse set of local legislators represent these institutions from both parties in both chambers.

The region also has rich museum offerings as well. The Children's Museum of Science & Technology, Empire State Aerospace Museum, and the Museum of Innovation & Science are invaluable regional education assets.


The Mid-Hudson region is the 'neck' of the state, connecting all Upstate regions to NYC and Long Island. It is also home to a significant amount of public school planetariums in a way no other region is.

The region does possess two classic Observatories, one at Vassar College and another at SUNY New Paltz. These facilities serve as space education and research hubs for their undergraduate students.

Empire Space is aware of 10 secondary school districts in the region that host planetariums: New Rochelle, Mahopac, North Rockland, Clarkstown, Suffern, Peekskill, Marlboro, Harrison, Port Chester, and Newburgh. This unprecedented concentration of school planetariums demonstrates the region's strong commitment to STEM and space education.

The region also hosts numerous public planetariums, including the Gustafson Planetarium in Fishkill, the Andrus Planetarium in Yonkers, and the John R. Kirk Planetarium in New Paltz.

A very large and diverse set of legislators represents the civic space sector throughout the region.

It is clear the Mid-Hudson region has developed an extensive civic space infrastructure returning educational benefits for thousands of regional students and positioning the region to be a key player in the space sector developments of the future.


While the dense urban nature of New York City makes it a poor fit for classical observatories or launch sites, the City does possess a rich tapestry of museums, planetariums, and science centers active in the civic space sector.

There are 3 secondary schools in the city with on campus planetariums: Bronx Science, Harry S. Truman HS (Bronx), and Edward R. Murrow HS (Brooklyn). They are true gems among the vast NYC school systems, offering invaluable space science education programs to their students.

There are also several prominent museums in the City with a presence in the civic space sector. The Intrepid Air and Space Museum in Manhattan, the NY Hall of Science in Queens, and Children's Museums in Brooklyn and Staten Island contribute to the vibrant space education scene in the City.

The American Museum of Natural History hosts the Rose Center for Science and Space and the Hayden Planetarium which are public space and astronomy resources of the highest caliber. The City College of NY and the Lower East Side Girls Club also host planetariums for the public, creating a wide range of programming options for the public.

Due to the political dynamics of NYC, the civic space sector is represented exclusively by Democrats, but the representation does include all 5 boroughs and a broad and diverse cross section of legislators in both chambers.

Despite lacking a dark sky or an ability to launch rockets, New York City possesses some world class, one of a kind civic space sector assets that contribute to the cultural dynamic and innovation in the city.

Long Island

Long Island was home to Charles Lindburgh on his trans-Atlantic flights, and now that legacy continues with a diverse and dynamic civic space sector.

A number of secondary schools on the island host planetariums for student use. Southampton High School, Sayville Middle School, Half Hollow Hills High School, Lindenhurst UFSD, and Longwood Central Schools have all invested in their students by bringing space and astronomy education to their campuses.

Adelphi University, Hostra, and Stony Brook University all host on campus observatories to supplement undergraduate astronomy programs, while Nassau Community College hosts an on campus planetarium. The Custer Institute & Observatory is a prominent public resource for astronomy, while Vanderbilt Planetarium also offers extensive enrichment programming for the community.

There are also numerous museums and science centers throughout the region. The Tesla Science Center, the Long Island Children’s Museum, and the Center for Science Technology & Learning all offer space related programming to the community.

Long Island is home to the Brookhaven National Laboratory, a one-of-a-kind global research and development facility hosting cutting edge work in dozens of fields that draws thousands of visiting scientists from around the world every year. The facility also hosts the NASA Space Radiation Lab which conducts critical research to protect astronauts from radiation in space.

The civic space sector on Long Island is represented by a diverse set of representatives in Albany, reflecting the diversity of the region as a whole.

Long Island has a proud history as a pioneer in the early days of aviation and has carried that legacy forward today with a diverse and dynamic civic space sector enriching the entire region.


The civic space sector in New York is made up of planetariums, observatories, museums, launch sites, and schools. From the far west to the far north, New York City and Long Island, there is a rich tapestry of institutions and facilities that provide space and astronomy education and resources to the general public.

These institutions are hubs of research and innovation and beacons of inspiration for students and adults alike. They are key nodes in a dynamic education system that facilitates space education K-college, preparing the next generation of New Yorkers to contribute to the exploration and development of space. Their broad footprint throughout the state creates a diverse, bi-partisan caucus of representatives in Albany responsible for their growth and success.

These institutions are your gateway to the exciting world of space and astronomy, and Empire Space hopes you will find new ways to support and encourage these institutions in your community!

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