synopsisThe Space Show in the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space uses state-of-the art technology to communicate cutting-edge science. A digital video system projects across the theater's 67-foot-wide hemispheric dome, and every seat has an amazing view. It is an "immersive environment," in which you feel as if you're part of the action taking place on screen. The journey may seem like science fiction, but it is all based on authentic scientific observations, data, and models.
Stars, planets, and even galaxies are always in motion, and since gravity pulls them together, they collide. Dazzling and destructive, these collisions release energy that drives the growth and evolution of the universe, and shape our place within it. Using some of the world's most advanced simulation and imaging technology, the Space Show takes us far back in time, way into the future, and deep into space to witness a universe made and re-made in a story of cosmic collisions.
The journey begins as we follow a comet that has roamed frigid space for billions of years. This one won't collide with Earth, but as it gains speed, bits of rock from its glowing tail collide with Earth's atmosphere. As the planet plows through this debris, we see a meteor shower above North America.
The next trip is four and a half billion years back in time, when the planets were still forming and rubble littered the Solar System. Floating in space, we see a Mars-sized body smash into a young, cratered Earth. Some of the molten debris stays in orbit and is drawn together by gravity, until — in less than a month — the Moon takes shape.
A 93-million-mile journey across the Solar System brings us searingly close to the Sun, its churning surface marred by Earth-size magnetic storms called sunspots. Inside, ceaseless collisions between tiny particles called protons release incomprehensible amounts of energy — on which life on Earth depends.
Most of this energy leaves the Sun as the light that radiates from its dramatic corona. Invisible to us, some flows off the Sun's surface in a constant stream of energized particles known as the solar wind, or in even more powerful bursts called solar storms. Riding the solar wind towards Earth, we see the planet's magnetic field shield it from this blast of charged particles. But the collision drives some particles spiraling towards the magnetic poles, causing the glowing Aurora Borealis.
Zooming past the International Space Station, we arrive in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Every so often a large asteroid is pulled out of orbit... and we watch the giant fireball as one smashes into Earth at 40,000 miles an hour. That was 65 million years ago, and nearly three-quarters of all life went extinct on the steaming, smoke-encircled planet.
The odds of another impact like that are slim, and scientists have been figuring out ways to protect the planet. As another asteroid floats into view, we see one strategy: a rocket flies nearby, and its tiny gravitational pull is enough to change the rock's orbit, and the pair pass safely by the Earth.
Heading out again, we venture beyond the Milky Way and into a globular cluster. Densely packed stars smash together in blinding flashes of light, giving birth to new, bright blue stars. Accelerating billions of years into the future and half a million light years farther out, we see the Milky Way gently spinning towards its nearest neighbor, the galaxy Andromeda. In graceful time-lapse — 40 million years per second — they strike each other a glancing blow, retreat, and come together again in a cosmic dance. Without collisions like these, the Milky Way wouldn't exist. And probably, neither would we.