HAYDEN PLANETARIUM AND DIGITAL UNIVERSE

Neil deGrasse Tyson

The Frederick P. Rose Director

Throughout its 70-year history, the Hayden Planetarium has earned world renown as a center for groundbreaking scientific research and public education in the field of astrophysics. For example, the first radio-wave emission from the planet Jupiter was discovered in 1955 by Dr. Kenneth Franklin, who is now Astronomer Emeritus at the Hayden Planetarium. And back in 1936, the Planetarium launched the premier issue of its bulletin, The Sky, which ten years later merged with another publication, The Telescope, to become Sky & Telescope magazine, an independent entity that thrives to this day.

Members of the Planetarium's staff have written more than 200 books on the universe since the Planetarium first opened its doors. Most recently, the volume One Universe, coauthored by two Hayden scientists and a freelance science writer, won the 2001 American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award.

The year 2000 saw the opening of the Rose Center for Earth and Space to widespread acclaim. The building's design-an 87-foot-wide sphere contained within a glass cube-has won numerous awards, while in its first 18 months of operation, the Rose Center averaged 1,000 visitors per hour.

The Center houses the rebuilt Hayden Space Theater as well as five new exhibits: the Cullman Hall of the Universe, the Big Bang, the Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway, the Scales of the Universe, and the inaugural Space Show, "Passport to the Universe," which takes the visitor on a visual journey from Earth to the edge of the universe and back. The Hayden's scientific staff curated all exhibits, with the Hayden director serving as chief curator and project scientist. The Planetarium staff is now joined by scientists from the Museum's new Department of Astrophysics. Together, they serve the unprecedented commitment the Museum has made to conducting frontier astrophysics research, and bringing that cosmic frontier down to earth.

The modern success of the Department flows primarily from its scientists' broad range of expertise, from planetology to cosmology. With this background, and with flexible exhibit design, the scientific information in the Rose Center is swiftly updated as the frontier of knowledge expands. In addition, the Hall of the Universe contains an electronic notification board, the "AstroBulletin," which brings late-breaking cosmic news directly to the public.

Programmatically, the Hayden Planetarium runs more than thirty courses per year on the universe for the general public. The Planetarium also runs two public lectures per month on astrophysics, as well as an annual panel debate on the frontier of science in memory of Isaac Asimov, and an annual symposium with astronauts, scientists, and engineers evaluating the future of human space flight.

Long-term, the Planetarium is working with other scientific institutions to create a National Virtual Observatory (NVO). In this innovative plan, the tera- and peta-bytes of data that stream from the sky via today's largest telescopes and detectors will be made available to the scientific community through computer links that enable "observations" of the data, in much the same way that telescopes enable observations of the sky.

These virtual observations will be analyzed and interpreted with sophisticated software tools that include all-dome visualizations of 3-D data sets, conducted in the Hayden Space Theater. This will transform the way observational astrophysics is conducted and is a priority in the astrophysics community for the coming decade, lest we drown in our own data.

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