Built in 1962 for the Seattle World’s Fair, the Pacific Science Center’s Laser Dome—or the Spacearium, as it was known at the time—is the world's oldest operating laser dome. Standing at 105 feet long and 100 feet wide, it is also the world’s largest. Its recent upgrade to a new laser system with nine Rainbow FX laser projectors, which helps create a more vivid and full experience, also makes it the Laser Dome with the greatest number of permanently installed full-color lasers in America.
The Laser Dome’s mesmerizing laser shows are created by the beams of photons shot out by specially made laser diodes. Prior to the laser upgrade, the PacSci had used gas lasers, which produced beams of bright light with carbon dioxide and compounds of noble gases that were regulated by electrical currents. However, the PacSci’s current lasers operate in a manner similar to that of an LED light, but at a far higher intensity.
Featuring music from prominent artists with the likes of Prince, Sia, and Michael Jackson (my personal favorite has been the Beatles show), as well as the occasional live performance from local music artists, a trip to the PacSci Laser Dome is always guaranteed to dazzle. With its 10,000 watt sound system blasting electrifying (no pun intended) music, I’d describe the experience as a cross between an EDM concert, an IMAX movie, and a planetarium. From elementary school kids on field trips to adults attending one of the PacSci Happy Hour events, Seattleites of all ages have always flocked to the Dome to escape reality. In 2019 alone, over 100,000 people visited the Laser Dome.
The PacSci Laser Dome is also distinctive in that, rather than being automated like most laser venues, each performance is live, meaning that laser artists coordinate and operate lasers during the show itself. This means that each event is unique, reflecting the personal styles of each laser artist, and often even have a few impromptu scenes.
In-house laser artist MoTown, aka Jerome Rhett, described the experience perfectly in a recent interview: “I just immediately fell in love with it...I’d say that the laser dome is so cool because it is an experience you truly can’t find anywhere else.”
I have to agree with MoTown on this one. Laser shows are always a special experience, but PacSci takes it to the next level. Laserists use three-synth touchpads to change the animations and tempo of the lasers so that each flash of light syncs up with the beat of the music. The colors and shapes, which can vary from abstract to complex and resemble anything from specific faces to animals, typically relate to the music in some manner. For instance, when “Yellow Submarine” comes on for the Beatles show, the dome is typically filled with yellow lasers and submarines.
While the Pacific Science Center is currently closed to the public in compliance with local COVID-19 health guidelines, you can still experience the magic of the laser dome online via this 360 Video as well as other upcoming virtual events at the Laser Dome. I long for the cozy feeling of lying down on the carpeted dome floor and gazing up to the laser heavens, as well as the enthusiastic applause of the audience at the conclusion of each show. Although the virtual experiences of the Laser Dome are void of these intimacies, it is still amazing to watch all that beautiful light bounce and reflect to the music.