Dan K is an avid Minecraft player, who has enjoyed Mining, Crafting, Exploring, and turning NPC Villages into sprawling cities since 2011.
Reaching for the Stars
Have you ever looked up at the night sky and wondered what your Minecraft world's solar system might look like? What types of planets might be orbiting the Minecraft sun? The possibilities are only limited by your own imagination. This article will show you some techniques you can use to create a model of whatever solar system you might be imagining. So grab your telescope and access your inner Copernicus, because we are building a planetarium in Minecraft.
Building the Exterior
The first step in building a Minecraft planetarium is to determine the style, size, and shape of the build. This build will take up a lot of space to accommodate the planet models and exhibits that belong in a planetarium, so make sure to clear an area large enough for what you are about to build. There are a few design features that are necessary to create the illusion of a night sky, so you will want to keep these in mind when planning the build. You will need a large, domed roof to create the illusion of a starry, night sky. If you want to add any exhibits other than the solar system model, you will want to make sure that you add some extra rooms large enough to give you room for them, but not so large that they overshadow the dome, which should be the main focus of the design. Once you have a design planned out, it's time to start building.
It is important that such a large build fits in with any other builds in the area, or it may wind up looking out of place in your world. I am building this in a town that I have been working on for over two years, so I really want it to fit into its surroundings. My town's municipal and educational buildings have a neoclassical design, so I wanted to keep that theme with the planetarium. Using creative mode, I was able to come up with a design and block palette that I was quite pleased with, so it was time to get to building in survival mode.
The foundation of this build is very important to creating the illusion of a build that could be possible in real life, as the massive dome would be quite heavy and would need a lot of support. While the exterior of the build isn't necessarily as important as the interior, this is a large build that will draw a lot of attention. For this reason, you will want to work just as hard on the building's aesthetics as its function. I chose a block palette that consists of deepslate bricks, polished deepslate, smooth stone slabs, stone bricks, and quartz pillars, stairs, and slabs. For the roof and the dome, you will want to use a very dark colored block to simulate a night sky when observed from the inside. Alternatively, you could choose dark blocks such as black concrete or blackstone to line the interior of the dome, but this will greatly increase your resource needs.
With the exterior complete, it is now time to move onto the most important part of a planetarium build: the interiors. The plan is to use a technique involving alternating layers of glass and empty space to create a dark, foggy effect that is often used to create steamy swamps and pits, but using it on the ceiling to appear like the night sky. Using this concept and placing end rods between the layers will create an effect that seems as though you are looking up at the stars. This idea was inspired by YouTuber Grian's Hermitcraft Season 8 "Midnight Alley" base.
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The first step to creating this illusion was to line the interior of the dome with amethyst blocks to create a purple, sparkling backdrop to the rest of the starry sky. This isn't a necessary step, but it creates an extra layer of depth, color, and "stars" to look like the endless void of space. When finished, you will hardly be able to even notice these amethyst blocks, but it will save you some time and resources; otherwise it would take more glass layers and end rods to create the same look.
With the background set, the next step is to begin placing the glass layers and end rods to complete the effect. I chose to use layers of black glass with a couple of layers of purple glass, while increasing the space between layers toward the bottom of the dome. I suggest taking a step back to check your progress after placing each layer to make sure that the illusion is working and that you aren't clustering too many end rods in one spot. For extra creativity points, consider trying to create some constellations through end rod placement. Be careful with how many layers you use, as too few won't have the same depth and too many will make it too foggy and you'll wind up with a cloudy night sky. Depending on the size of the dome, about 5-8 layers of glass should be enough to create the look you're going for.
Modelling the Solar System
With the background now complete, it's time to begin modelling the solar system that you have imagined. I used shroom light blocks for the sun, suspended from the ceiling using chains. These blocks look similar to swirling plasma, while providing enough light to keep mobs from spawning inside the dome. The next step is to choose blocks that resemble potential planets, while keeping in mind how their placement relative to the sun would effect the makeup and appearance of each planet. For example, I used a magma block for the closest planet to the sun, as Mercury (the closest planet to our sun) is a molten planet due to the heat of the sun. For the planet furthest from the sun, I used a snow block to represent a frozen planet. The deepslate diamond and emerald blocks represent barren, resource rich planets that are either too close or too far from the sun for life to flourish. Use your imagination, while thinking about what could be possible in another planetary system.
Planetariums are designed to educate people about out solar system, other planets, and how our own planet is unique. Because of this, I chose to build a couple of exhibits dedicated to my Minecraft world and its moon/End dimension. I used green, light blue, and white wool blocks to simulate a globe and End Stone for the moon. While these are the exhibits that I chose to build, you could choose any of the planets in your solar system model to exhibit, it is completely up to you. These exhibit areas could also be used as a map room to show off how far you have explored in your world.
A planetarium is a difficult, but fun, project that challenges a Minecraft builder to use their imagination and knowledge to create a hypothetical solar system. This project made me really consider my Minecraft world's place in relation to its sun, while imagining the makeup and appearance of other planets in the solar system. I was very satisfied with how this turned out, and I would recommend attempting a build like this to other builders.
Have you ever built a planetarium in Minecraft? What other uses for the glass layers trick can you think of? Let me know in the comments!