Guided Exploration: Planets Zone main content.

Guided Exploration: Planets Zone

Part of Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Hall of the Universe.


HoU Tour Map: Planets

Overview: Planets orbit stars, are massive enough for their own gravity to have made them round, and do not share their orbits with other bodies of similar size. This zone describes the formation and evolution of planets around the Sun and other stars, and examines the role of collisions for planets. It features the 15-ton Willamette Meteorite, the largest ever discovered in the U.S., and a self-sustaining habitat contained in a 39-inch closed glass globe, called the Ecosphere.

1. Planets Wall

Explore the variety of objects in our solar system, including terrestrial and gas giant planets, asteroids, Kuiper Belt objects, moons, and comets. How do you think gravity holds the solar system together? Imagine what might happen to the solar system if gravity stopped operating.

2. Ecosphere

This glass sphere, sealed since 1999, is a simple example of a self-sustaining ecosystem. The plants and animals recycle nutrients and obtain energy from sunlight. The algae produce oxygen for the shrimp, and the shrimp produce nutrients for the algae. Observe its contents. What is living and nonliving? What do you think keeps the organisms alive?

3. Willamette Meteorite & Planetary Impacts Cluster

Touch the meteorite. How does it feel? Explore the panels to find out why pieces of astroids and comets crash into Earth.