Cernan Earth and Space Center: What You Need to Know to Plan Your Trip

The Cernan Earth and Space Center, nestled within the campus of Triton College in River Grove, Illinois, stands as a beacon of scientific exploration and education in the heart of the Midwest. Named in honor of the legendary astronaut Eugene Cernan, who was put on the map for being the last human to walk on the moon, this center holds immense significance as a hub for astronomy, space science, and earth sciences.


Located in close proximity to the bustling city of Chicago, the Cernan Earth and Space Center serves as a vital resource for both students and the broader community, offering a unique opportunity to delve into the wonders of our planet and the mysteries of the cosmos. Read on to find out how you can enjoy a day at this hidden gem! 


History of the Triton College Cernan Earth and Space Center
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The Cernan Earth and Space Center has a rich history dating back to its establishment in 1974. Named after the esteemed astronaut Gene Cernan, it pays homage to a man who left an indelible mark on space exploration. Eugene Cernan was not only the last person to set foot on the moon during NASA's Apollo 17 mission in 1972 but also a pioneer in the field of space exploration who also flew aboard the Gemini 9 and Apollo 10 missions. The center was dedicated to his honor, as it seeks to inspire future generations to reach for the stars just as Cernan did.

Located on fifth ave in River Grove, IL, the mission of the Cernan Earth and Space Center is to provide a captivating and educational environment where individuals of all ages can foster a deeper understanding of our planet and the universe beyond. Through state-of-the-art planetarium shows, interactive exhibits, and engaging educational programs, the center aims to ignite curiosity and encourage a passion for science, particularly in the realms of astronomy, earth sciences, and space exploration. Its vision is to serve as a catalyst for scientific discovery, serving the community by fostering a love for learning and encouraging the pursuit of knowledge about our planet and the cosmos. As a valuable educational resource, the Cernan Earth and Space Center plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of science enthusiasts, aspiring astronomers, and space explorers.

Features of the Center

The Cernan Earth and Space Center boasts a range of captivating features designed to engage visitors in a world of science and discovery. Key exhibits and displays provide insights into the wonders of the cosmos, the mysteries of our planet, and the history of space exploration. The center's planetarium, with its cutting-edge technology, offers immersive shows that transport audiences to distant galaxies, explore the depths of the universe, and shed light on the intricacies of celestial phenomena. Additionally, special attractions such as the dome theater and laser light shows offer unique and mesmerizing experiences, combining entertainment with education to make learning about space and earth sciences an unforgettable adventure.



Things to Do as a Visitor


There are many things to do as a visitor, including:


Interactive Exhibits


The Cernan Earth and Space Center offers a dynamic array of interactive and educational exhibits that allow visitors to delve into the wonders of the universe and our planet. From hands-on displays illustrating the principles of astronomy and space science to engaging simulations that recreate the experience of space travel, these exhibits cater to visitors of all ages. Discover the fascinating mysteries of black holes, explore the geological features of Earth, and even pilot a virtual spacecraft. These exhibits provide a truly immersive learning experience, encouraging curiosity and exploration in the realm of science.


Night Sky Viewings and Space Simulations


One of the center's standout attractions is the opportunity to witness the night sky like never before. With access to powerful telescopes and knowledgeable guides, visitors can participate in night sky viewings, marveling at distant galaxies, planets, and celestial events. Space simulations take visitors on virtual journeys through our solar system and beyond, offering a taste of the excitement and challenges of space exploration. Whether it's stargazing or embarking on a simulated space mission, these experiences provide a unique and unforgettable perspective on the cosmos.


Planetarium Shows


The Cernan Earth and Space Center's planetarium is a beacon of astronomical education. Offering a diverse selection of shows, visitors can embark on celestial adventures that range from exploring the constellations visible in the night sky to delving deep into the mysteries of our solar system. These captivating shows are both entertaining and educational, making them suitable for visitors of all ages. With varying durations and schedules, there's always a show that fits your interests and availability, ensuring an enriching and immersive experience.


Educational Programs


For those seeking a more structured learning experience, the center offers a wide range of public programs, including educational initiatives and workshops. These programs cover topics such as space science, astronomy, geology, and environmental science. Geared towards different age groups, from schoolchildren to adults, these initiatives aim to inspire a lifelong passion for science. Whether you're attending a hands-on workshop, participating in a science club, or enrolling in a formal educational program, the Cernan Earth and Space Center provides valuable opportunities to expand your knowledge and skills in the sciences.


The Star Store Gift Shop 


During your visit to the Cernan Earth and Space Center, don't forget to explore The Star Store Gift Shop, a delightful addition to your space and science adventure. Here, you can browse a captivating array of space-themed merchandise, educational toys, books, and souvenirs that serve as perfect mementos of your journey into the cosmos. Whether you're looking for a celestial-themed gift for a friend or a keepsake to commemorate your visit, The Star Store Gift Shop offers a diverse selection to cater to all interests and ages. It's not just a store; it's a part of the overall experience that allows you to take a piece of the universe home with you, making your visit to the Cernan Earth and Space Center even more memorable.


Special Events (Like the Laser Taylor Swift!)


The Cernan Earth and Space Center frequently hosts special events that enhance the visitor experience. From guest lectures delivered by renowned scientists and astronauts to astronomy nights featuring celestial phenomena, these events offer a chance to engage with experts in the field and gain deeper insights into space and earth sciences. Whether you're a dedicated space enthusiast or a curious newcomer, these events provide unique opportunities for learning, networking, and sharing in the excitement of space exploration. 


Laser Taylor Swift


Get ready to shake it off and groove to the cosmic beats because the Triton College Cernan Earth and Space Center is bringing the "Laser Taylor Swift" cosmic light show to town! Happening on Saturdays throughout January and February, specifically on Jan. 6, 13, 20, and 27, as well as Feb. 3, 10, 17, and 24, at 8:30 p.m., this 45-minute extravaganza promises a spectacular blend of brilliant laser lights, a sky full of thousands of stars, and mind-blowing digital effects. Suitable for the entire family, it's an experience that will leave you enchanted. So, put on your best Taylor Swift-inspired outfit, craft those friendship bracelets, and get ready to relive the Eras Tour all over again under the starry night. Tickets are priced at $10 for adults, $5 for seniors (55 and over), and $5 for children (2-17). Please note that tickets can only be purchased at the gift shop on the day of the show, starting at 6:30 p.m. Triton students, faculty, and staff can also enjoy this cosmic journey for free with a valid ID. Don't miss out on this stellar event!


Click here to learn more. 


Planning Your Visit


Ready to explore the galactic wonders of the Cernan Earth and Space Center? Below you’ll find location information, admission pricing, and how to plan your next group event or birthday at a hidden gem in River Grove. 


The Location


Located just outside of Chicago in River Grove, IL, the Cernan Earth and Space Center is easily accessible by highways 290 and 294. 

Below you will find additional location and contact information:


Address: 2000 5th Ave, River Grove, IL 60171

Telephone: (708) 456-0300



Tickets and Admission


Admission costs will vary depending on the type of show or special event, i.e., Early Explorers, Full-Dome Features, or Cosmic Light Shows. 


Cost ranges include the following:


Children (ages 2-17) $3-$5

Adults (ages 18-24) $3-$10

Seniors (ages 55+) $3-$5

Students $3-$5


Triton college students or faculty and staff with a valid ID are free


You can purchase tickets at the Star Store gift shop. View the current show schedule to plan your next adventure. 



Membership Pricing


If you want to experience the world of science and discovery over and over, consider the membership program. Members receive a variety of benefits including: 


Unlimited Free admission to regular programs

Discounted admission for guests
Email updates
A quarterly newsletter
10% discount at the Star Store
Invitations to special events
Free or reduced admission at more than 300 ASTC member institutions across the United States and around the world. 
Members can also check out a basic telescope for Free for one month


Membership pricing options include:


Skywatcher - $50 (2 names on membership)

Stellar Supporter - $110 (4 names on membership)

Galactic Giver - $250 (6 names on membership)

Cosmic Contributor - $500 (8 names on membership)

Cernan Circle  - $1,000 (8 names on membership)(This membership receives one FREE group program for up to 100 people)


Group & Party Pricing


If you have a cluster of space explorers eager to visit, check out the group pricing. 


School Program admission: (Valid Sep, Oct, Jan and Feb)

In-District Schools: $3.50/student

Out of District Schools: $4.00/student


Other Months:

In-District Schools: $4.00/student

Out of District Schools: $4.50/student


One supervisory adult can be admitted for free for every 10 kids. Additional adults are admitted at the student rate. Minimum stipulations and cancellation fees may apply. 


Students can view many educational exhibits like the collection of fossils of prehistoric animals, a scale model of the Space Shuttle Challenger suspended in the lobby, and view the space suit astronaut Gene Cernan wore on the Apollo 10 mission.


Birthday Party Packages


If you’re looking to celebrate with the stars, take a look at the birthday party packages. The base price is $300 for up to 25 guests and $10 for each additional guest. 


Available hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday, 1-9:30 p.m.



Best Times to Visit


The Cernan Earth and Space Center is open year-round, but the best time to enjoy all the magnificent benefits is on the weekend. The cosmic light shows are one to remember, with many taking place on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday afternoons. Advanced tickets and online sales are not currently available, but the box office opens 30 minutes before each public show on that date. Guests are encouraged to arrive early, as shows do occasionally sell out. 


Accessibility and Facilities


The Cernan Earth and Space Center has a variety of free parking available at parking LOT 6, which lies between the Cernan Earth and Space Center and Palmer Avenue. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) provides easy access to Triton College, and the Pace Suburban Bus Service Route 331 stops directly on campus. 


If attending the Center with a school group, buses should use the curb in front of the Cernan Earth and Space Center as a drop-off and pick-up zone. Once all passengers have left the bus, drivers can relocate their buses to student parking LOT 6 just north of the Cernan Center.


There is a large ramp available for easy accessibility into the Center with many restrooms available for use. Exhibits are located indoors and outdoors, so it’s important to factor in various weather conditions when visiting. Certain special events may provide food and beverages, but there are also many favorable restaurants nearby where you can enjoy a delectable meal after your visit. 


Detailed directions can be found here


While You’re in Town


While you're in River Grove, there's much more to explore beyond the Cernan Earth and Space Center. Be sure to take some time to enjoy the local flavor by grabbing a bite at the iconic Gene and Jude's hot dog stand, a Chicago institution renowned for its delicious hot dogs and vibrant atmosphere. For architecture enthusiasts, a short hop next door to Oak Park offers a chance to marvel at the architectural wonders designed by the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright. Oak Park boasts an array of beautifully preserved Frank Lloyd Wright homes and buildings, offering a glimpse into the genius of this influential architect with a walking tour covering many architectural styles. Whether you're savoring a classic Chicago hot dog or exploring architectural masterpieces, River Grove and its neighboring communities provide a well-rounded experience that complements your visit to the Cernan Earth and Space Center.



Meet us at the Cernan Earth and Space Center


The Cernan Earth and Space Center at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois, stands as a beacon of scientific exploration and education, paying homage to the legacy of astronaut Eugene Cernan and inspiring visitors of all ages to explore the wonders of our planet and the mysteries of the cosmos. With its interactive exhibits, night sky viewings, planetarium shows, educational programs, and special events, the center offers a wealth of opportunities to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of science. 


Whether you're a curious student, a passionate space enthusiast, or a family looking for an educational adventure, the Cernan Earth and Space Center invites you to embark on a journey of discovery and wonder that will leave you with lasting memories and a greater connection to the universe. Come and be a part of the extraordinary experience that this center has to offer, where science and exploration come to life in a truly captivating way.