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Nominal Me

I'm falling in love with my camera and taking photos everywhere I go. That, combined with my passions for politics, sports, religion and other things we all agree on, makes this blog persist.

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Location: Astoria, New York, United States

I'm born in Manhattan and raised in Queens.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum is located on South Lake Shore Drive, and is part of a complex that houses a series of Chicago attractions. It reminded me of the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York, one of my favorite places in New York City. It is a place of some historic importance:
The Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum in Chicago, Illinois was the first planetarium built in the Western Hemisphere and is the oldest in existence today. The Adler was founded and built in 1930 by the philanthropist Max Adler, with the assistance of the first director of the planetarium, Philip Fox.
On display is the six legged Mars Planet explorer. The explorer uses solar power to recharge its batteries and responds to radio signals from Earth to guide its movements.

In an area focused on our solar system, signs tell visitors that we have "79 Worlds and counting which include nine planets, 61 named moons, three asteroids larger than 310 miles in diameter, and five well known comets. The age of the museum is apparent in the methods used to explain things, which mostly are models and photographs. This model, an orrery, was used in 1700 to explain the solar system as they knew it at the time.

This rock is a small piece of a huge iron-nickel meteorite that hit the Arizona desert. The Arizona crater it helped create is the largest in the United States. Readers of my blog know that the second largest crater is in Odessa, Texas, something I randomly found out on the road in December. An estimate provided by the planetarium said that the size of the meteorite was probably as much as 300,000 tons when it hit the Earth.

One of the cooler exhibits on the display is a Moon rock from the Apollo 15 mission.

One good use of photography was this one, which puts our solar system in the context of our galaxy.

It's kind of like a map in case we get lost. Photos and information like this are available to us in ways that were difficult in the past due to to gas and dust in space. Now, we use infrared and radiowave telescopes that can "see through" the material. Scientists now believe there is a black hole at the center of our galaxy.

They also believe that 90 percent of our galaxy's mass is found in what's called "dark matter" due to the movements of the bodies we can see. Scientists surmise the existence of this matter because the stars at the edge of our galaxy orbit the center much faster than expected. I doubt anyone seriously just considered a simpler idea: that the calculations are wrong. It very possible, as a matter of faith, that we'll come up with a better telescope to find this dark matter someday.

Here's a photo of our Milky Way galaxy. It is a photo taken at various points from the Earth to show much of our surroundings.

More cool photos come courtesy of the Hubble Telescope, which records light values and converts them to a stream of numbers representing levels of brightness. Astronomers then use computers to convert them into photos that we can see and comprehend.

The planetarium is at its best when you are watching videos, all of which fail to show up well in a blog format. You'll just have to take my word for it. The video that I saw in one of its two full-sized planetarium theatres showed things large and small in the universe. I also spent at least 30 minutes watching an old grainy film on the origins of the American space program, which readers of this blog have learned about from my trips to Houston and Orlando.

All in all this was a good museum. I think it needs a facelift though. Nothing a few million dollars and some time won't help.