Thursday, November 17, 2011

“Cosmic Collisions” Hit Natural History Museum This Weekend

The universe began with a bang, and the hits just keep on coming.

“Cosmic Collisions,” the newest planetarium show at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, opens Saturday and will showcase collisions within our universe from all points in time: past, present and future.

The show features supercomputer simulations of the collisions of galaxies, asteroids, comets and solar particles, as well as the collision between the Earth and a Mars-sized object that most scientists believe ultimately formed our moon.

Jason Davis, the astronomy programs coordinator at the natural history museum, says the simulations “are as accurate as we can get to the science.”

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City produced the show and made it available to all museums with the equipment to project it. Thanks to an extensive upgrade in summer 2010, the natural history museum is well capable.

Viewers will take in the awe-inspiring story of how our moon came to be and see how the Northern Lights are caused by solar particles’ collisions with the Earth’s magnetic field. The audience can also travel through space after the show, if they so choose. The planetarium operators can zoom viewers to any planet, star, or galaxy in their database.

“It could be as simple as a trip to Pluto, or as complicated as [a map of] the mass of the universe,” Davis says. “If asked to, I could show them every galaxy ever discovered.” Even though a large number of them will simply be data points, just seeing the vastness of the universe we live in is eye-opening.

Wednesday evening shows keep visitors a little closer to home. On clear Wednesday nights through December, the museum invites planetarium attendees to go up to the telescope dome after the show to gaze upon Jupiter and four of its brightest moons, the same four first discovered by Galileo more than 400 years ago.

“Cosmic Collisions” premieres at noon this Saturday, with shows at 2 and 4 pm following. It runs through December 31. For complete showing information, click here.


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