An astronomy exhibit that never goes out of date -- that's how the Space Telescope Science Institute describes ViewSpace, its multimedia exhibit for museums.
Image to right: ViewSpace portrays the beauty and power of the universe and gently guides the viewer to have a deeper understanding of astronomy. Credit: Clark Planetarium, Salt Lake City
ViewSpace uses an Internet-connected computer and large-format display to show the latest images, movies, animations and news from the Hubble Space Telescope and other NASA observatories. Programming is updated regularly via the Internet connection.
"Hubble Update," "Astronomy Picture of the Day" and "Mars Exploration Rover Update" are among the various segments, each between five and 15 minutes in length, that run in a continuous loop. The show repeats about once an hour and is accompanied by music and captions, without spoken narration.
The online feed of ViewSpace is available to museums, planetariums, nature centers and other informal science education venues for a small annual subscription fee. Venues must furnish their own hardware, including a Windows-based computer; large-screen monitor, plasma display panel or video projector and screen; and speakers. Hardware specifications are available at the ViewSpace Web site.
According to John Stoke, STSCI manager of informal science education, ViewSpace is worth the hardware costs, which can range from $1,000 to $7,000.
"ViewSpace is probably the most cost-effective means available to keep an astronomy exhibit area or planetarium lobby infused with fresh science content," said Stoke, who notes that ViewSpace received a 2003 MUSE award from the American Association of Museums, which annually recognizes excellent media programs produced by or for museums.
Launched in 1990, Hubble has made possible several extraordinary discoveries. For example, precise measurements of distances to far-away galaxies, calculated using Hubble observations in combination with those from ground-based telescopes, have indicated the universe may be expanding at an accelerating rate. Meanwhile, high-powered cameras on board Hubble have revealed some of the earliest galaxies to emerge after the big bang. Hubble has also uncovered new information about the role of black holes, the origins of gamma rays, and the life cycle of stars.
ViewSpace Web site:
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Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies