NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM
OPENS "EXPLORE THE UNIVERSE" EXHIBITION
Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum—continuing
its yearlong 25th
anniversary celebration—opens its newest permanent exhibition,
"Explore the Universe,"
on Friday, Sept. 21. The gallery showcases some of the most significant
observational tools astronomers have devised over the past four
centuries and the role each has played in our continuing quest
to understand the universe.
Visitors to "Explore the Universe" will pass through five sections representing
the evolution of the astronomer’s instruments:
the Universe with the Naked Eye" examines our first
basic understandings of the universe. Featured artifacts include
an 11th-century Islamic astrolabe, an early mechanical map
of the universe; and a replica of Tycho Brahe’s ornate armillary
sphere, used to study the sky and teach the celestial coordinate
the Universe with the Telescope" illustrates how
the telescope revolutionized the way we see the universe.
Featured artifacts include William Herschel’s 20-foot (6-meter)
telescope tube, a British national treasure used for the
first-ever mapping of the entire night sky, never before
displayed in the United States.
Universe with Photography" shows how photographs
changed the way astronomers recorded the universe. Featured
artifacts include the huge observing cage from the Mount Wilson
telescope, used by Edwin Hubble in discovering that the universe
is made up of galaxies and they are all moving away from each
the Universe with Spectroscopy" demonstrates how
the study of light reveals the compositions of stars and galaxies
and their motions. Featured artifacts include an 1894 spectrograph
from the Lick Observatory, the prototype instrument for high-accuracy
observations of radial velocity, which is the speed of motion
in the line of sight.
the Universe in the Digital Age," the largest of
the five sections, explains how the advanced digital equipment
of today has enhanced the power of earlier tools to portray
a universe still evolving. Featured artifacts include the
flight-ready backup mirror to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST)
and instruments removed from the HST during servicing by astronauts.
The National Air and
Space Museum has the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection
of scientific instruments for observing the stars from space.
Approximately one-sixth of those artifacts—including the backup
mirror to the Hubble Space Telescope—are displayed in "Explore
the Universe." The Herschel 20-foot tube and the
observing cage from Mount Wilson—parts of two of the most important
telescopes in history—were generously loaned to the museum for
The gallery also features
more than two dozen interactives including replicas of early astrolabes,
quadrants and telescopes; mechanical representations of galaxies;
an infrared camera and monitor station; and several computer stations
and video kiosks for expanded illustration of how the artifacts
The museum has produced
three short videos for the gallery: the computer-animated adventures
of "Priscilla the Proton," the artifact-appraising spoof
"Museum Roadshow" and "Scott Hamilton Skates the
Universe," in which the Olympic gold medalist and national
champion zips through the cosmic rink to "Galaxy Song,"
from the Monty Python film "The Meaning of Life."
The "Explore the Universe" Web site (airandspace.si.edu/exploretheuniverse)
offers an extensive virtual tour of the gallery, a detailed look
at artifacts, plus links to scientific and academic resources.
The museum’s education
unit has designed a series of special programs for "Explore the Universe" including a "family day" on
Saturday, Sept. 22; a teachers guide; and online lessons linked
from the exhibition Web site. A staffed, hands-on "discovery"
cart equipped with devices and games that demonstrate exhibition
concepts will be featured at the museum."
The National Air and
Space Museum is all about charting and celebrating mankind’s technological
advancements," said museum director Gen. John R. "Jack"
Dailey. 'Explore the Universe’
presents these remarkable astronomical tools in the same way that
our Milestones of Flight gallery takes visitors from Kitty Hawk
to the moon. And while we haven’t physically traveled very far
from our planet, ‘Explore the Universe’ shows how our quest has
taken us millions of light years into space."
"Explore the Universe"
is made possible through the generous contributions of the National
Science Foundation and TRW, with additional funding from Corning
Incorporated Foundation/Corning Incorporated, the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration and the Smithsonian Institution Special
Exhibitions Fund. Additional support is provided by Analytical
Graphics, Inc. and the Eastman Kodak Company.
museum marked its 25th
anniversary on July 1, 2001. Since opening in 1976, it has
become the most popular museum in the world, attracting more than
nine million people a year. The museum is currently building a
companion facility at Washington
Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia, which will
house the 80 percent of the national collection that has not been
accessible to the general public. The Steven
F. Udvar-Hazy Center will open in December 2003, to mark the
centennial of the Wright brothers’ first powered flight at Kitty
The National Air and
Space Museum, located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue
S.W., is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (Closed Christmas
Day.) Admission is free.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Downloadable
images of this exhibition and an electronic media kit can be found
the Universe Media Kit:
The Universe Press Release - September 13, 2001
Explore The Universe Curator's Top
Explore The Universe Interactive,
Graphic and Audiovisual Highlights
Explore The Universe Bios
Explore The Universe Quick Facts
Explore The Universe Fun Facts
Explore The Universe Imagery for Press
Online Exhibition: http://airandspace.si.edu/exploretheuniverse
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