Exhibit Hall

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.

 

 

Mecury_Messenger_Pic_1

On August 3, 2004 NASA launched the MESSENGER discovery mission, an unmanned spacecraft set to send back pictures of  the entire planet of Mercury.  This mission  is monumental because this is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury and the first pictures of Mercury we will have from a spacecraft since Mariner 10 in 1974. The magnetic pull of the sun coupled with the intense heat have made it very difficult to obtain any images of the sunny side of Mercury. Until now we have only had recorded images of 45 percent of the planet‘s surface. Scientists researched and found  the best way around this dilemma is through the inner solar system.

When MESSENGER launched from Earth  in 2004 it began an eight year path into Mercury’s orbit. First it flew by Earth once, then by Venus twice, and took a flyby of Mercury. In 2008 the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) craft made its initial approach and took pictures of regions of Mercury that have never been seen before by the human eye.  Last month on March 17, 2011 the MESSENGER craft successfully entered the orbit of Mercury.  On March 29th we got the first pictures back of Mercury from orbit and they are spectacular! The MESSENGER mission will continue collecting data for another year.

Scientists hope that from this mission we will gain more insight into the mysteries of Mercury including its geologic features, its core and density, its thin atmosphere yet presence of a magnetic field, the unusual materials at the poles, and possibly clues to the evolution of the solar system itself.

 Mercury_Messenger_Pic_2

 Find out more about Mercury and the other planets in our solar system by visiting The Orlando Science Center and exploring our permanent exhibit on astronomy and Earth Science, Our Planet, Our Universe.

Two articles from National Geographic Website:

http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/03/14/nasa_mercury_messenger_enter_orbit/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/pictures/110330-messenger-mercury-from-orbit-nasa-space-first-pictures-science/?source=link_tw20110330news-mercury

Keep up with The MESSENGER:

http://messenger.jhuapl.edu

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/main/


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Solar storms may be a problem of the past due to prevention in the future. For the first time ever, scientist are able to see a 360-degree panorama view of the sun! NASA released these images in early February, recorded from the Solar Dynamic Observatory with those from NASA’s twin STEREO spacecraft. Scientists are now embarking on an 8-year exploration, primarily to look at the rotating sun’s far side. The goal is to be able to better predict solar storms.

A solar storm is an electrified gas cloud that erupts from the surface of the sun into space, which can damage satellites and disrupt communication systems on earth. Scientists hope that being able to predict the future of solar storms will help them find a way to prevent them. For the first time ever, the video below allows us to watch solar activity in its full 3-D dimensional glory. The video shows us a 360-degree panorama view of the sun and then zooms in on a solar eruption.


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The Kepler mission hit another home run with the discovery of 1,235 possible new planets in the galaxy! These “exo” or “extra” planets are scattered across the Milky Way— large and small—orbiting stars other than the sun. Wondering how the Kepler spacecraft works? This planet locater is actually a telescope that follows the earth around its orbit of the sun, recording what it sees. The Kepler telescope is always pointed at the same area in the sky, so when there are changes in the starlight, it shows that a planet is close at hand. When the planet passes by the telescope, the light will dim and then return to normal. According to Science News, this will allow scientists to begin composing a galactic planetary census which will show how many planets are in the galaxy.

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NASA’s quest to find a planet that inhabits life is currently in full swing, more than ever before. This discovery gives scientists new and original locations to hunt, causing an astronomy frenzy! Scientist will be looking at locations where the exoplanets orbit around a star, allowing the perfect temperature for life, creating a habitable or “goldilocks” zone—not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

There are now 54 prospective planets in that zone, the smallest are about the size of Earth. This is a new chapter for scientist in the field of astronomy, in the search to find another earth-like planet.

Kepler_2


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NASA’s Kepler Mission is a space observatory built to discover Earth like-planets. The Kepler Mission is to explore the structure and diversity of planetary systems beyond our Galaxy, the Milky Way.

On January 10th, NASA confirmed the discovery of its first rocky planet, named Kepler-10b. Not only was it the first rocky planet, but also the smallest planet ever found outside of our solar system. Data collected on the “exoplanet” was collected from May 2009 through January 2010. This discovery has provided evidence of a rocky planet orbiting a star, besides our sun. Although this planet is not in a habitable zone, it is still an exciting discovery for NASA’s Kepler Mission, which results in a promising outcome for more discoveries to come. In the quest to find a planet similar to Earth that enables life form, NASA is on the right path.

To find out more information about the Kepler Mission or their new discovery, click here.

Kepler


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The sky’s sheer size and beauty takes our breath away, but what exactly makes the sky so blue? Due to a phenomenon coined Rayleigh Scattering, the spectrum of colors ranging from violet to red, either pass through or deflect off of the earth’s atmosphere, which is made up of mostly nitrogen and oxygen. Longer wavelengths of red, yellow and orange colors of the spectrum have little affect on these tiny particles that make up our atmosphere.  However, shorter wavelengths of blue are deflected and are scattered all around us, causing the sky to appear blue no matter where we look.

Our Planet, Our Universe: Earth and Space, opening as a permanent exhibit on September 25, 2010, will provide guests the opportunity to discover and explore black holes, Martian terrain and of course, why our sky is blue. Allow us to beam you up to enjoy the vastness of the cosmos, as well as the complexity of our fascinating planet.

 

Blue_Sky


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Orlando Science Center • 777 E. Princeton Street • Orlando, Florida 32803 • Phone: 407.514.2000 • Toll Free: 888.OSC.4FUN • Email: [email protected]
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