Earlier this week, a part of the Physics Central team went to the nearby NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to take a journey through space. Our intrepid photojournalist, Quantum, took plenty of great pictures as we toured the visitor center and the portable, inflatable Geodome planetarium.
When we first arrived, we enjoyed a short tour of the solar system via the flight center's Science on a Sphere program. Science on a Sphere (not to be confused with Science off The Sphere) relies on multiple projectors from different angles to display combined images on a six foot diameter sphere in the center of the room.
With this technology, outreach specialists can create an ever-changing globe that can represent a variety of celestial bodies such as the Sun and planets of our solar system. For the presentation that we saw, the globe transitioned into several familiar objects like the Sun, Jupiter, Saturn, and the pale blue dot we call home.
The globe can be used to show weather events on Earth, geographic features on distant moons and even solar flares on the Sun's surface. Nearly 100 educational institutions around the world have one of these spheres, and you can find the one closest to you on this map.
After our expedition through the solar system, we caught a glimpse of NASA's portable Geodome planetarium in action. The planetarium may be small, fitting about 15 people comfortably, but it displays some of the largest structures in the universe. Using real data from NASA missions, the presenter showed us a variety of distant stars and galaxies. You can see a few of the images featured in the planetarium below.
And here's what the inflatable planetarium looks like from the outside.
So if you don't have any plans this weekend, make a trip to your local planetarium; you might just learn a thing or two.