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Behind the Scenes

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Thu, June 16 2016

Field Report from the Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassador Program

I’m snatching moments to write this from Chile, sitting on the floor of the airport, or bouncing up winding mountain roads in a van. I’m here as an Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassador, with eight other ambassadors.

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Wed, June 15 2016

A Box of Time in the Time and Navigation Exhibition

In our exhibition Time and Navigation visitors can set their watches by a working cesium frequency standard, commonly known as an “atomic clock,” on loan from the National Museum of American History. The exhibit allows visitors to see different methods of measuring time, including mechanical and electrical clocks. A digital display on the atomic clock shows the global reference known as the Coordinated Universal Time or UTC. A separate display connected to the clock shows local time, which visitors can use to set their watches. While the device is not connected to outside time sources, it will keep accurate time within a tiny fraction of a second over the foreseeable future. We jokingly called it our “Box of Time.”

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A Box of Time in the Time and Navigation Exhibition

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Wed, June 15 2016

Take to the Air in the Smithsonian’s Balloon

Visitors to our Innovations in Flight Family Day and Outdoor Aviation Display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on June 18, are in for a real treat. In addition to the wide variety of aircraft that will fly in for the event and the other special programs planned, Andrew Richardson, the owner of Adams Balloons LLC of Albuquerque, New Mexico, will be making tethered flights with a new Smithsonian hot air balloon, weather permitting. Realizing that we have a beautiful example of a classic Adams wicker balloon basket on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center, Richardson asked if we would accept a modern hot air balloon envelope sporting the Smithsonian logo and colors into the collection. While the Museum has a world-class collection of balloon baskets and gondolas, we did not, in fact, have an envelope. Anxious to fill that gap, we quickly accepted Richardson’s generous offer.

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Thu, May 12 2016

Adjusting Our Atomic Clock for the Leap Second

How do you keep time? We use an atomic clock in our exhibition Time and Navigation that is accurate to the tiniest fraction of a second and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Except, of course, when we need to account for a leap second—a second added to the clock to account for Earth’s slowing rotation. Curious how we added that second or how an atomic clock works? Find out in our newest blog post. 

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Thu, May 12 2016

A “Box of Time” in the Time and Navigation Exhibition

In our exhibition Time and Navigation visitors can set their watches by a working cesium frequency standard, commonly known as an “atomic clock,” on loan from the National Museum of American History. The exhibit allows visitors to see different methods of measuring time, including mechanical and electrical clocks.

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Thu, May 12 2016

A New Home for an Old Glove

What makes a tattered and torn glove worthy of collecting? When it once belonged to the third highest scoring ace in aviation history Günther Rall. The glove (with its thumb visibly damaged from a 1944 air raid in whichRall was hit in the left hand by gun fire), a painted portrait of Rall as a prisoner of war, and his diary from 1942 were all recently donated to the Museum.

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Wed, May 4 2016

A "Box of Time" in the Time and Navigation Exhibition

In our exhibition Time and Navigation visitors can set their watches by a working cesium frequency standard, commonly known as an "atomic clock." Before the clock was installed, we needed the frequency standard to be calibrated to the national reference time at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, DC.

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Thu, April 14 2016

Volunteers Help Keep Museum Objects Clean

When visitors enter our Museum, many are awed by the number of artifacts that are on display. We’re often asked, “How do you manage to keep everything clean?” That is a terrific question, especially since there are more than 6,000 artifacts on display at any time on the floor or hanging overhead, with more being added each year. Cleaning and inspecting the artifacts is critical to preserving the Museum’s collection.

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Fri, April 1 2016

Tribble Trial Trends Toward Trouble

Stardate 1604.01: At 12:01 am EDT this morning, the National Air and Space Museum began breeding tribbles. This bold, innovative, not-at-all-ill-advised experiment will run for 24 hours, until 11:59 pm tonight, allowing Museum specialists to study the galaxy’s most adorable ecological disaster in greater detail than ever before.

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Thu, March 3 2016

Investigating the Writing on Columbia’s Walls

I recently shared that we uncovered handwritten notes and markings inside the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia—the spacecraft that carried astronauts Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin into lunar orbit and home on their historic voyage of July 1969. As part of our collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office to create a detailed 3D model of the spacecraft, we had access to previously inaccessible areas for the first time in many years. We found notes written on a number of locker doors and even a small calendar used to check off days of the mission. We did our best to imagine the circumstances surrounding the creation of these markings. In the weeks that have passed, I have been working with an extraordinary team of experts to see what we can learn about each of the markings we documented, especially the more technical numerical entries. Today, we are posting the Apollo Flight Journal (AFJ) website, a detailed account of all the information we’ve gathered so far.

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