To get some suggestions about the best exhibits for each age/grade click here.
Now Open on Level 4
For centuries, the mysteries of space have captured our imagination and inspired us to look ever further into the cosmos. Now, the Orlando Science Center invites you to begin your exploration at Our Planet, Our Universe, a new permanent exhibit that takes a fascinating look at space as well as elements found right here on Earth.
An original exhibit on astronomy and earth science, Our Planet, Our Universe explores the strange, curious, and odd peculiarities of the universe and our place in it. Discover the dynamic forces and systems that shape our Earth, as well as other planets and discover the latest information about our solar system. New experiences include computer-based interactives and visuals, including images direct from the NASA/Hubble Space Telescope, and hands-on exhibits that explore some strange - and some familiar - phenomena.
The exhibit is divided into distinct areas that explore earth and space - here are a few of the hands-on exhibits you'll encounter:
Earth, Wind & Sky
Aeolian Landscapes: Lets visitors manipulate fans to discover how the force of wind can shift sand into spectacular dune shapes and patterns.
Blue Sky: Find out why our sky is blue through manipulation of different filters in front of a light source through a medium.
Mars Rover: Guide a to the planetary rover over an 8’diameter simulated Martian terrain Takes the controls of the rover to move and pick up rock samples with its robotic arm while your friend watches the images the rover camera reveals.
Planets & Portals
Ask An Astronomer: interactive video kiosk featuring short, lively and entertaining answers by the astronomers at the Spitzer Space Science Center.
Cosmic Collisions: See what happens when galaxies collide through an interactive kiosk.
Tonight’s Sky: What will I see if I look up at the night sky tonight? This software program from NASA is automatically updated every month to show appropriate stars, constellations and other objects playing on a large screen TV.
Gravity, Waves & Warps
No Sound in Space: Hear what happens when you start an alarm bell, then pump out the air. Can sound waves move through the vacuum of space?
Black Holes Quiz: Explore the strange and unique phenomena surrounding black holes. Take a journey into a black hole, or find out more at the black hole encyclopedia.
Warping Space: Manipulate ‘stars’ and ‘planets’ along a 2D universe to see how different space can warp into 3 dimensions.
You may have used the expression “once in a blue moon” at some point or another, but do you actually know what it means? This phrase refers to something that is uncommon, or in some cases, rare. The term blue moon comes from the Farmers’ Almanac. The Farmers’ Almanac defined each season as having three full moons. If four moons occurred within one season, they referred to it as a blue moon.
Such is the case in August this year, when two full moons appear within the same calendar month. And don’t be fooled; the moon isn’t actually blue! On the first of the month, the initial full moon occurred. Friday marks the second and last chance to see a blue moon until 2015.
An extraordinary cluster of galaxies is continuing to shatter cosmic records! The cluster of galaxies is located nearly 7 billion light years away. It is known as SPT-CLJ2344-4243, though astronomers have given it a less formal nickname: the Phoenix Cluster. Named after the constellation it resides in, the cluster appears to contain thousands of galaxies within it, with each varying in size to that of a dwarf galaxy (a small galaxy comprised of several billion stars) to clusters of stars the size of the Milky Way galaxy.
The Phoenix Cluster is unlike anything astronomers have ever seen before; it is about 2,000 times the apparent mass of the Milky Way. Or to put things in better perspective, 2.5 quadrillion times the mass of the sun!
Nearly eight months ago, NASA launched Curiosity - the latest Mars rover - into space. Set to land on Monday, August 6 at 1:31 a.m. EST, NASA scientists and observers around the world anxiously await to see if Curiosity will able to maneuver the landing process and successfully set down on the Red Planet.
NASA scientists and engineers spend so much time working with the Mars Laboratory rovers that the robots become almost like pets, and just like pets, the rovers get names that often say a lot about their "personalities." The name "Curiosity" explains exactly the nature of this rover’s mission, which is to act as a mobile science laboratory on Mars to investigate whether life could ever exist on the planet.
The rover will begin by studying Gale Crater to see if the area contains any of the necessary ingredients that could sustain life. NASA scientists considered 60 different landing sites and spent diligent time analyzing all possibilities before deciding upon Gale Crater as the designated landing location for Curiosity. About as large as Rhode Island, the site was chosen because it provides a variety of interesting places for the rover to explore and is clear of hazards which will help with a safe landing. The rover, which is no larger than a small SUV, will spend the majority of its time examining rocks and soils in the remote areas of Gale Crater.
What's the strongest wind you've been in? 50 mph, 100, mph... how about 20 million mph? That's what researchers at the Chandra X-ray Observatory discovered recently while studying stellar-mass black holes.
Chandra X-ray Observatory is one of the four Great Observatories operated by NASA. It produces images that are 100 times fainter than that of any previous telescope due to the high resolution of the mirrors. The X-ray Observatory was built to allow astronomers to view images to better understand the evolution of the universe and how the structure was formed.
Stellar-mass black holes are formed when a massive star collapses due to gravitational force and can be more than three times the solar mass of our Sun. In recent days the Observatory has observed the fastest winds ever recorded from a stellar-mass black hole. Traveling at three percent of the speed of light, the winds on the surrounding disk recorded an astounding speed of 20 million miles per hour. These record breaking winds are similar to the winds found in disks surrounding supermassive black holes, which can be billions of times larger and more powerful. According to Jon M. Miller, the co-author of The Astrophysical Journal Letters, “It’s a surprise this small black hole is able to muster the wind speeds we typically only see in the giant black holes. In other words, this black hole is performing well above its weight class.”
The astronomers studying this stellar-mass black hole have also learned that the high winds are carrying more material away from the black hole than it is able to capture. These findings will help astronomers better understand black hole behaviors. As Ashley King, lead author of The Astrophysical Journal Letters describes, “Contrary to the popular perception of black holes pulling in all of the material that gets close, we estimate up to 95 percent of the matter in the disk around IGR J17091 is expelled by the wind,”
The first video ever taken of the far side of the Moon was recorded by the twin GRAIL Probes, Ebb and Flow, and released on February 1, 2012. The GRAIL probes were launched aboard the Delta II rocket on September 10, 2011 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The only people to have seen the far side of the Moon have been the astronauts of the Apollo missions and robotic spacecraft. Why do we never see the other side of the Moon? The Moon is tidally locked with the earth; therefore the same side of the Moon always faces the earth.
The twin GRAIL probes are on a mission lead by Maria Zuber, the principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The purpose of the mission is to further explore the Moon’s gravity fields.
“My resolution of the new year is to unlock lunar mysteries and understand how the Moon, Earth and other rocky planets evolved,” Zuber said. Part of her resolution came true when Ebb (GRAIL-A), reached the moon’s orbit December 31, 2011 and Flow (GRAIL-B) reached it on January 1, 2012. “Now, with GRAIL-A successfully placed in orbit around the Moon, we are one step closer to achieving that goal,” Zuber said.
Zuber has been working to create a program geared toward school children in the fifth to eight grade. The GRAIL probes are equipped with a MoonKAM, Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students, a program designed to spark children’s interest in space and science in hopes some becoming scientists and engineers. The students will be able to direct the MoonKAM to take pictures of specific areas of the Moon. The image will then be sent directly back to each classroom giving students the great opportunity to study craters, highlands and future landing sites.