About the Show


Earth and the Sun
© AMNH
(click to enlarge)
The journey begins on Earth, where we bask in the warm rays of the setting Sun. We lift off and travel out beyond our Solar System, and even beyond the edge of our galaxy.

We then jump over 13 billion years into the past, to a time when there were no stars at all. In this primeval state, there was only an invisible substance called dark matter, along with hydrogen and helium gas. But soon, the first shining stars appeared. They burned hot, lived fast, and exploded in incredible supernovas that blasted new elements out into space. These new elements provided the essential raw materials for building new stars, planets, and, eventually, even life. The gravity of dark matter collected gas into galaxies—more and more galaxies formed, along with more and more stars within them. One of the galaxies was our own Milky Way.


Milky Way Galaxy
© AMNH
(click to enlarge)
Our journey brings us forward in time to about 4.5 billion years ago, when our very own Sun was born. A cloud of gas and dust, somewhere in the Milky Way, formed stars of many different masses and colors. Within this tightly packed group of stars, called a star cluster, was our young Sun. The intense light and heat of the massive bright stars dispersed the surrounding cloud of gas and dust. The most massive stars lived only briefly and exploded in gigantic supernovas. Eventually, the less massive stars were flung out of the cluster—some, like our Sun, with planets already formed and orbiting around them.


The Sun will become a red giant.
© AMNH
(click to enlarge)
We travel to the present day, zooming in on our Sun, to see how stars work. The Sun's layers are revealed from the outside in: the million-degree corona blasting out a solar wind, the photosphere with its darker sunspots, and, below that, the tumultuous currents of hot gas churning above the radiant interior. The Sun's core is where nuclear fusion happens: atomic nuclei fuse together, releasing immense amounts of energy. Pulling back from the Sun, we see how its churning outer layers generate a vast magnetic field, and a stunning visualization then reveals how the Sun's magnetic field and solar wind extend across the Solar System. Earth's own magnetic field almost always shields it from the dangerous blast of charged particles—only a trickle of solar wind gets through, sliding down to the poles and producing radiant displays of light called auroras. A quick jump to the future, 5 billion years from now, reveals our Sun at the end of its life, as it expands into a red giant and then sheds its outer layers into space. All that is left is a white dwarf, the hot dense remnant of the Sun's core, which will cool down over billions of years.

Our journey returns us to the present, to explore stars in our galactic backyard that are going through all these processes now. We visit the dazzling Orion Nebula, Pleiades, and Helix Nebula to observe stars being born, being ejected from star clusters, slowly dying, and shedding matter that may someday form other stars and planets. Finally, a short flight back home lets us experience the familiar night sky as seen on Earth. When morning arrives, the light of the rising Sun clearly reveals what stars have made possible.

The Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space uses state-of-the-art technology to communicate the excitement of cutting-edge science. A digital video system projects across the theater's 67-foot-wide hemispheric dome, and every seat has an amazing view.

Based on authentic scientific observations, data, and models, the planetarium show takes us deep into space and through billions of years to witness the birth, life, and death of stars. Along the journey, we discover how and why stars are important to us—indeed, how and why they make all life possible.
Also at the Museum Beyond Planet Earth

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Journey to the Stars Online Educator's Guide