Science & Tech

Visitors will gravitate to ‘Black Holes’ exhibit

3 min read

Center for Astrophysics exhibit debuts at Museum of Science on June 21

On Sunday, June 21, a new exhibit developed by educators and scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) will open at the Boston Museum of Science.

Called “Black Holes: Space Warps & Time Twists,” the traveling exhibition pulls visitors into the modern search for real black holes – the most mysterious and powerful objects in the universe.

Black holes are regions in space with gravity so powerful that nothing can escape, and where time and space are warped beyond our understanding. The exhibition will guide visitors on a journey to the edge of these strange objects to discover how the latest research is turning science fiction into fact, challenging our notions of space and time in the process.

“In this exhibition, we wanted to use the inherent fascination of black holes as a compelling vehicle to engage museum visitors in the larger story of how scientific discovery works – and how science is connected to human curiosity, imagination, and culture,” said project director Mary Dussault of the CfA.

CfA personnel spent two and a half years planning, designing and constructing the 2,500-square-foot exhibition. Its interactive stations address a number of questions, such as:

• What is a black hole?

• Where are black holes?

• How do we find black holes if they are really black?

• What would happen if you fell into a black hole?

One feature sure to be popular: a station where visitors can experience their own black hole adventure. Using one of three “excursion pods,” they will embark on a fantasy “adventure vacation” to the black hole at the center of our galaxy. As they make their way toward this “deep space dive,” visitors explore the phenomena around the black hole, including warped space, the slowing of time, and the dangerous magnetic fields and radiation that could leave them stranded on their cosmic adventure.

As they travel through the exhibit, visitors carry their own bar-coded Explorer’s Card, which they can use to collect discoveries and to generate a personalized Website that only they can access. Once visitors return home, their journal becomes a personal portal to further black hole exploration and a platform for sharing their “Black Holes” exhibit experience with friends and family.

“Black Holes” was made possible by a generous grant from the National Science Foundation, with additional major support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The exhibition will be on display at the Museum of Science through Sept. 7, 2009, and is included with regular admission.