The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., has opened its newest temporary exhibition, "The Evolving Universe." Breathtaking full-color photographs of the cosmos, taken by high-powered terrestrial and orbiting telescopes, take visitors back through time to the beginning of the universe.
The exhibition, a collaborative effort with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, explores how stars, galaxies, and the universe undergo the same stages as life on Earth: from birth, to maturity and, eventually, to death.
Scientists have used advancing technologies to explore the history and evolution of the universe. The light from stars and galaxies in the night sky has traveled for hundreds, millions or even billions of years. The light from the sun -- a mere 93 million miles away -- travels to Earth in only a few minutes. The night sky has stars in the Earth’s galaxy, the Milky Way. Light from the center of the Milky Way in the constellation Sagittarius has taken more than 26,000 years to reach Earth. When that light left its source, modern humans were becoming adept basket makers. Also included in the exhibition is an image of the microwave radiation emitted shortly after the Big Bang -- a snapshot of the newborn universe 13.6 billion years ago, long before the first stars and galaxies formed. The universe has been expanding ever since.
The exhibit will be on view at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. until January 2013. In addition, 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. It can also be experienced online.