The Universe’s Tour Guide

Satellites swarm around the Earth on the Hayden Planetarium's dome. Credit: AMNH.

Satellites swarm around the Earth on the Hayden Planetarium’s dome. Credit: AMNH.

The hazy, white horizon lifts away slowly, giving way to the blue and green, cloud-swept marble we call home. I take in a deep breath, astonished by the Earth’s staggering beauty in stark contrast to the sprinkled backdrop.

People are still shuffling into the 429-seat Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, their shadows projected onto the arched ceiling. A voice resonates in the dome’s spacious cavity. Brian Abbott, the planetarium’s assistant director, is welcoming everyone to the show. It’s a “highlights tour,” he says, covering most of the known universe in one fell swoop.

As we leave Earth further behind, the satellites appear, swarming above our planet like bees around a hive. Soon the curved orbits of other planets become visible and we fly toward Mars.

In minutes we are hovering above Valles Marineris, a canyon so massive it would stretch from Manhattan to Los Angeles. The projectors display six-meter resolution data from the Mars Global Surveyor. We see the canyon ridges in such incredible, 3D detail it seems we could reach out and touch the tallest peaks with our fingers.

Abbott’s voice is slow and soothing. He —> Read More Here


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