“This is a labor of love,” said Maurice Henderson (pictured right), an electrical engineer who serves as education and public outreach engineer with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Henderson was at Buffalo State in early October setting up a new exhibit, the Hubble Space Telescope: New Views of the Universe, at the Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium.
The exhibit, featuring a scale model of the Hubble telescope, was headed for the scrap heap after traveling around the country as a larger Smithsonian exhibit. Henderson said, “I’m a Hubble hugger. I wanted to adapt the show for smaller venues.” Hubble huggers—enthusiastic supporters of, and advocates for, the Hubble telescope—helped to keep the Hubble mission alive when the $1.6 billion telescope started to send back blurry pictures shortly after its launch.
The fix—essentially lenses to correct a flaw smaller than a human hair—was a triumph for engineers as well as for the astronauts who implemented it. The Hubble vindicated its supporters by providing scientists with information about the universe for the last quarter century.
“With activities going on around the world to celebrate Hubble’s 25th anniversary, it’s great to be able to offer this exhibit to Western New York,” said Kevin Williams (pictured left), associate professor of earth sciences and science education and director of the Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium.
Two Fall Shows Scheduled
Hubble Space Telescope: New Views of the Universe is free for those who come to see the planetarium’s fall 2015 shows: "From Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA" and "Skies of the Harvest." “We will also schedule free shows of the Hubble exhibit,” said Williams.
Despite its more flexible size, the Hubble exhibit is still an unusually complex installation. It includes four six-by-ten-foot screens with images such as the iconic “Pillars of Creation.” Additional stations have interactive exhibits that enable visitors to have a “more intimate experience,” according to Williams.
As he worked to finalize the exhibit, Henderson said, "My dad said you need a reason to get up in the morning. I can't think of a better reason than this! When you see a kid here, completely fascinated, you can see all the possibilities for that kid. Every Nobel laureate was a six-year-old once.”
Behind the Scenes: Engineering for Space
On October 16, "From Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA" opened. It complements the Hubble exhibit by highlighting the behind-the-scenes work that make America’s space program possible.
“It's unique because it focuses on the engineering side,” explained Williams. “It shows how missions are put together, and what happens when things go wrong.” Additional modules explore questions that need answers before a mission can be planned. Will the spacecraft land, or will it be like the New Horizons flyby of Pluto? Will the power source be solar or nuclear? The show and exhibit also introduce the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to be launched in 2018.
The current shows run through November, with laser music shows scheduled for December. Reservations can be made online. The Hubble exhibit will be at Buffalo State through April.
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