Observe the night sky at the historic Mount Wilson Observatory, soar across the Milky Way Galaxy, and parachute through Jupiter’s atmosphere in Dark Universe, the new Hayden Planetarium Space Show opening at the American Museum of Natural History on Saturday, November 2.
Image © AMNH
“In the last decade we have for the first time precisely measured the astonishing history of the universe from the Big Bang to now,” says Curator Mordecai-Mark Mac Low. Dark Universe celebrates the scientific breakthroughs that have paved the way to our increased understanding of the universe, revealing that it is dominated by two mysterious phenomena: dark matter and dark energy. To bring this story to the Hayden Planetarium dome, the Space Show relies on stunning visualizations based on authentic data from NASA and European Space Agency missions, ground-based telescopes, supercomputer simulations, and research conducted at institutions around the globe, including the Museum.
Hayden Sphere © AMNH/D. Finnin
Behind these visualizations is a team led by Mac Low, who studies the formation of planets, stars, and galaxies, and oversees the presentation and interpretation of science in the Space Show. He works closely with visualization experts, including Space Show director Carter Emmart, to bring the latest science in this field to the Hayden Planetarium Space Theater dome. In this way, says Emmart, Space Shows are a 21st-century example of a long-standing Museum tradition: artists collaborating with scientists to bring scientifically accurate depictions of the natural world to the public.
A scene from Journey to the Stars, the Museum's current Space Show, in the Hayden Planetarium Space Theater © AMNH
“We put a lot of effort in previous generations into making the habitat dioramas—they’re early data visualizations, because they’re showing accurately the animal and the place it inhabits,” says Emmart. “The modern planetarium is an immersive diorama. We’re taking our best knowledge, and we’re actually putting you in these places in the universe.”
Over the next few months we’ll be sharing what goes into the making of a Space Show at the Museum. Check back for a glimpse behind the scenes, hear from the curator and the production team and more.