As a public health precaution, both of our locations, along with all Smithsonian museums, are temporarily closed. See our message to visitors.
What is the Universe like? Our answer to that question has changed—sometimes suddenly and dramatically—as our tools for studying the Universe have changed. Explore the Universe shows how our ideas about the Universe evolved as we developed new astronomical instruments. It presents the Universe as discerned by the naked eye, then shows how the telescope, photography, spectroscopy, and digital technology revolutionized our view. The largest section describes what astronomers today think about the nature of the Universe.
Among the many amazing treasures on display: an Islamic astrolabe from 10 centuries ago, the actual telescope tube from William Herschel's 20-foot telescope, the observing cage from the Mount Wilson Observatory's 100-inch Hooker Telescope, and the backup mirror for the Hubble Space Telescope.
See Online Exhibition