Black holes are regions in space with gravity so powerful that nothing can escape, and where time and space are warped beyond our understanding. A new traveling exhibition from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics 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.
Created by educators and scientists at the Center for Astrophysics (CfA), Black Holes: Space Warps & Time Twists is an exploration of the most mysterious and powerful objects in the universe. It opened at the Boston Museum of Science, and is now available to travel.
Project director Mary Dussault explains, “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.”
The interactive stations in the 2,500-square-foot exhibition address a number of questions:
What is a black hole?
Where are they?
How do we find black holes if they are really black?
What would happen if you were sucked into one?
One station allows visitors to experience their own black hole adventure. Using one of three “excursion pods,” visitors will embark on a fantasy “adventure vacation” to the black hole at the center of our own galaxy. As they make their way toward this “deep space dive,” travelers 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.
The exhibition is being traveled by the Association of Science – Technology Centers, and is available to Smithsonian Affiliates at the members’ price. Affiliates also receive exclusive access to CfA staff, including a special lecture from a Smithsonian scientist working with the Chandra X-ray Observatory (the world’s best black hole hunting machine); and the opportunity to collaborate with educators from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to offer a special teacher workshop to their local school-based audiences, among other programming.
Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.