Friday, April 12, 2013

The Evolving Universe

Where: Natural History Museum

When: through July 7, 2013

Truth be told, I've always had a bit of a problem with the concept of deep space.  When something is so far away that distance is measured in years, I have a hard time comprehending its existence.  I know that deep space exists, I'm not that much of a cretin, but I can't really fathom it.  It seems as distant as a world in a fantasy novel.

Despite the limitations of my imagination, deep space is out there (far, far out there) and this exhibit at the Natural History Museum attempts to explain it to those of us who are not professional astronomers.  Pictures of different types of objects are on display, with straightforward descriptions and beautiful photographs - the one pictured above is typical.  Each of the planets in our solar system has a photograph, which reminded me of the show I saw at Air and Space a couple of years ago.  Frankly, these photos are not as impressive as those were, but yet again, I walked away thinking Neptune is the most beautiful planet.

For each of the different types of space objects, the description tells you how long it takes for light from that object to reach Earth, and what our planet was like at that time.  Some of the light we see today started its journey to us before humans even existed.

The Sun and the Earth were created 4.6 billion years ago, contrary to the (sadly) popular belief that the Earth is 5,000 years old.  And of what is the Earth and all its inhabitants created?  The remains of dead stars.  I seem to recall that Carl Sagan said we are all star stuff, and (no surprise) he was quite right.  Think of it as cosmic recycling.

I would have enjoyed my visit to this show more had there been fewer other visitors, but class field trip season is now upon us, so the place was very crowded.  When I find something difficult to understand, I do better if I can read in silence, but no such luck.  Even though the exhibit space is well off the beaten path, plenty of people managed to find their way back.  Ah well, I try to remind myself that the more people visit, the safer the museum's funding will be.

Verdict: Great photographs of deep space objects, as well as good information.  Crowded, but so is everything at Natural History at this time of year.

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