The cosmos constantly changes. Stars are born, live out their lives, and die - sometimes calmly, sometimes explosively. Galaxies form, grow, and collide dramatically. A new exhibition and website, developed jointly by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) and the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, reveal the dynamic and evolving universe through breathtaking photographs and informative captions.
"The Evolving Universe" explores how the stars, galaxies and universe undergo the same stages as life on Earth: from birth, to maturity and, eventually, to death. This remarkable journey from present-day Earth to the far reaches of space and time will be on view in the museum in Washington, D.C., through July 7, 2013.
A worldwide audience also can experience the exhibition through its website, located at www.mnh.si.edu/exhibits/evolving-universe. All of the images featured in the museum gallery can be downloaded in high-resolution jpegs or PDFs formatted in poster size.
"Anyone can select their favorite space photo, download it, and take it to their local copy shop to print it," said Smithsonian astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who played a lead role in developing the exhibition.
Visitors to the exhibition or website can choose one of two paths to explore the cosmos. They can begin close to home with our solar system and move outward to the farthest reaches of the universe. Or they can begin 13.7 billion years ago at the moment of the Big Bang and move forward in time to the present day. Along their journey they will learn how a variety of telescopes and instruments, many developed by SAO, reveal the fascinating history of the expanding universe.
"We've all seen the amazing pictures from NASA's probes in our own solar system," said McDowell. "I'm excited about bringing to the public the remarkable images of the broader universe that we astronomers have been exploring with our telescopes. I hope that with this exhibition visitors will take away an appreciation for our larger cosmic neighborhood."
"The Evolving Universe" is located on the second floor of the National Museum of Natural History, between the Minerals Store and the Korea Gallery. For more information about the museum, visit it at www.mnh.si.edu. The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service will travel the exhibition to museums across the country beginning in fall 2013. Visit www.sites.si.edu for more information on the itinerary.
Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) 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.