Dark Universe Premieres

An exquisitely rendered ride through the cosmos, the Museum’s fifth Space Show, Dark Universe, which premiered in the Museum’s Hayden Planetarium in November 2013, tells the story of the last century of cosmic discoveries—including two of the most enigmatic phenomena brought to light so far.

“This Space Show is not just about what we know about the universe but how we know it so well,” says Dr. Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, curator in the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics who also served as curator of Dark Universe. “The major accomplishment of the last decade in cosmology has been going from rather general knowledge about the universe to knowing its properties to within a few percent. The astonishing result is that the universe has turned out to be a very odd place, nothing like anybody ever expected.”

Narrated by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Dark Universe begins 100 million lightyears away from Earth. After flying to our own Milky Way galaxy, viewers arrive on Earth at California’s Mount Wilson Observatory, where Edwin Hubble’s discovery that the universe is expanding provided the first clues to the Big Bang. That initial discovery, and ever more sensitive instruments on the ground and in space, led to other breakthroughs that give astronomers an increasingly detailed and precise picture of how our universe formed and evolved. The revelations also uncovered intriguing new mysteries: What is the invisible dark matter holding together galaxies? And what is dark energy, which accounts for about 70 percent of the stuff in the universe and which is causing the acceleration of cosmic expansion?


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The production team visited the Horn Antenna to shoot a time-lapse sequence in spring 2013.

Created by an award-winning team of astrophysicists, educators, and science visualization experts, and directed by Carter Emmart, the Museum’s Director of Astrovisualization, Dark Universe drew on data from NASA and European Space Agency missions, ground-based telescopes, supercomputer simulations, and research conducted around the globe to produce its stunning visuals.

The show includes breathtaking sequences that drop audiences alongside a parachute descending through Jupiter’s atmosphere, bring them back to the afterglow of the Big Bang, and float them through an intricate web of invisible dark matter.

“I was happily swooning through the cosmos, stars and galaxies floating crisply by like fluff you get from blowing on a dandelion, ready to go anywhere, when the final credits started rolling,” wrote Dennis Overbye in The New York Times.

Dark Universe, which was produced by Vivian Trakinski with Dr. Rosamond J. Kinzler serving as executive producer, features a script by best-selling science writer Timothy Ferris and a score by Robert Miller, a New York City composer who worked on music for two previous Space Shows.


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As the Space Show came together, the team reviewed scenes in the Hayden Planetarium Space Theater.

The show won several awards including Best Science Visualization at the FullDome Festival in Jena, Germany, and joined the Museum’s other popular planetarium shows playing to audiences all over the globe. In fiscal year 2014 alone, six planetarium shows, including Dark Universe, and the musical show SonicVision, appeared in 40 venues in 17 countries. Cosmic Collisions screened in 25 locations, including Moscow and Manila, while Journey to the Stars was shown in nine cities including Perth, Australia, and Athens, Greece.


Dark Universe was created by the American Museum of Natural History, the Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space, and the Hayden Planetarium.

Made possible through the generous sponsorship of Accenture.

And proudly supported by Con Edison.

The Museum also gratefully acknowledges major funding from the Charles Hayden Foundation.

Presented with special thanks to NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Dark Universe was developed by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in collaboration with the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, and GOTO INC, Tokyo, Japan.