New Views of the Universe: Hubble Space Telescope is divided into eight fascinating sections. Each one highlights a different aspect of the Hubble Space Telescope, whether it is the satellite itself, one of its many discoveries, or what the future may hold. The stations include an introduction panel that welcomes viewers and briefs them on Hubble, a tunnel that highlights some of Hubble’s best images, a station on the spacecraft’s equipment and servicing missions, and various exhibits highlighting Hubble’s contributions to the study of planets, stars, galaxies and the universe. Also featured is an exhibit on the James Webb Space Telescope and what to look forward to from space telescopes in the future.
The introductory panel welcomes visitors to the Hubble Space Telescope exhibit and briefs them on the Hubble satellite, the questions that it seeks to answer, and the questions that the exhibit may answer for them. The panel endorses the original partnership between NASA, the Smithsonian Institution and the Space Telescope Science Institute that made this exhibit possible. With a warm welcome and knowledge of what they should be looking for, viewers of this station are now prepared to immerse themselves in the mysteries and wonders of the Hubble Space Telescope’s traveling exhibit.
The Tunnel is a path that surrounds and immerses visitors in a series of images from some of Hubble’s most fascinating discoveries. Wherever you look, there is a new image captured by the telescope, and as you traverse through the tunnel, you experience the entirety of the space telescope’s lighting sequence through a series of extended exposures of each photo. The images in the tunnel reflect recent science made possible with the Hubble Space Telescope. When exhibit space is limited, the back half of the tunnel is deployed, and images are subject to change.
The Hubble Model
The 1:15 model of the Hubble Space Telescope is the central focus of the traveling exhibit, and gives the observer a visual representation of the telescope as it is in space. The ring surrounding the model provides insight into the size, operations and capabilities of the Hubble telescope, while the rear of the station provides a three-step explanation of why Hubble is above the atmosphere and what makes it different from ground observatories. Viewers of the exhibit learn how the space telescope manipulates light captured by its mirrors in order to obtain images of distant stars and galaxies, as well as the events leading up to the launch of the telescope.
The Hubble Space Telescope has had five servicing missions, or expeditions by astronauts to repair the telescope and ensure that it’s working at its best. The servicing missions station of the traveling exhibit highlights each of the five Hubble repair missions, detailing what hurdles Hubble has faced and the innovative solutions that astronauts have made to overcome them. The station includes displays of some of the tools used by the astronauts on these servicing missions, many of these tools having actually flown into space.
The Planets station of the traveling exhibit details some of Hubble’s most significant contributions to the observation of planets in our solar system and beyond. Hubble tackles the question of where these planets came from and how they formed. The satellite can watch these planets and how they change over time in order to answer important questions on their histories and their origin. The telescope can see storms as they sweep across Mars, a comet as it strikes Jupiter, or volcanic eruptions on Jupiter’s moon Io. The solar system is alive with change, and Hubble is watching.
The Stars section of the traveling exhibit deals with the stars in our home galaxy, the Milky Way. This section of the exhibit includes iconic imagery of the Eagle Nebula throughout Hubble’s lifetime as well as information on nebulae – clouds of dust and gases that are vigorous hotbeds for star formation. Interactive kiosks take viewers on a tour through the life and death of a star, while a time marker puts time and distances of stars in perspective.
Galaxies are enormous systems of stars and gas that fill the universe by the billions. Astronomers have many ideas as to how these galaxies formed, although their great variety in shape and size suggest that they have vastly different histories. Hubble’s incredible views of these galaxies help astronomers to answer questions about the universe, whether they be about its age, its origin, or its fate. The galaxies wall of the exhibit features Hubble’s 15th anniversary image of the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51), while the information tower looks at interacting galaxies, determining the age of the universe, and at our neighbor the Andromeda Galaxy.
The exhibits in this section deal with the distant universe. The faint light that Hubble detects from this faraway region has been traveling for billions of years and represents events that occurred when the universe was very young. Hubble’s deepest views are shedding light on some of the most profound questions of all. How does the universe work? Where did we come from? Are we alone? The Hubble Universe station’s wall extends cosmology to the farthest reaches of the universe with an image of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, which contains an estimated 10,000 galaxies in the span of a single image. The information tower looks at gravitational lensing, a natural phenomena first predicted by Einstein that uses the warping of space and time itself in order to gain insight into the earliest formations in our universe. The multi-spectral station of the Universe station gives viewers a hands-on experience with the infrared, visible, and ultraviolet capabilities of the telescope. When the observer puts their hand into the interactive display, they see their hand as Hubble would in each of the three wavelengths of light discernible by the space telescope.
The Webb Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope exhibit gives the observer a peek into the creation and development of the Webb telescope, and it tells a tale of two telescopes: what Hubble can accomplish and what the James Webb Space Telescope has to offer. The exhibit compares the two telescopes and highlights some of the key differences between the two satellites. The Webb telescope will focus primarily in the infrared light spectrum and will provide us with insight into the early universe, while Hubble, which is more versatile in its views of the ultraviolet spectrum, will continue to operate into the 2020s and provide us with new scientific observations and discoveries. Working together, these two telescopes will allow us to see the universe as we never have before.
Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
The Hubble traveling exhibit was developed by the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, and is made available from the Hubble Project Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.