Cape Fear Museum seeks to replace aging ‘Starlab’; fundraiser luncheon scheduled this Thursday is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Children crawl into the Starlab to see a planetarium program. Photo courtesy Cape Fear Museum.
Children crawl into the Starlab to see a planetarium program. Photo courtesy Cape Fear Museum.

Cape Fear Museum is hosting a fundraiser this Thursday in hopes of replacing its aging “Starlab,” a portable planetarium that the museum says has seen thousands of visitors since its purchase 20 years ago.

The fundraiser, called the “Reach for the Stars” luncheon, will be held this Thursday, March 20, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Union Station Building at Cape Fear Community College.

Funds raised from the event will go toward purchasing a digital planetarium system valued at $40,000. Called a Digitalis Zeta System, the planetarium uses digital technology that offers more flexibility, capability and cost-effectiveness then portable analog, or pinhole, systems like the current Starlab, the museum said.

“An integral part of Cape Fear Museum’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programming is its Starlab,” the museum said in a release. “Purchased in 1995, Starlab has seen thousands of visitors from every third-grader in New Hanover County (free of charge) to educators at UNCW’s Center for Education in STEM.

“Fourteen years of use and travel have taken a toll on the Starlab,” the release states, noting replacement parts and bulbs are no longer made for the planetarium. “The Starlab is extremely outdated—it identifies Pluto as a planet. Many stars have worn off the program disks and the projection is dull and out-of-date.

The “Reach for the Stars” luncheon will feature food provided by Middle of the Island, and author and humorist Celia Rivenbark will share stories for entertainment. Museum educators will also provide demonstrations in the Starlab.

Tickets for the luncheon are $37, and table sponsorships are available. Reservations can be made by contacting Cindy Anzalotti at 798-4372 or

More information on Cape Fear Museum can be found on its website,