The wonders of space…getting closer every day

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Photo courtesy of American Museum of Natural History
Photo courtesy of American Museum of Natural History

Scientists around the world are trying to figure out just what dark matter is with experiments underground and in space. One such experiment is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, an instrument on board the International Space Station.

Founded in 1896 the American Museum of Natural History has been amazing school groups and adults alike since its inception. Followed 39 years later by the construction of the Hayden Planetarium the duo has hosted literally millions of people who, until today, continue to be awestruck by the exhibits.

Generations of students visiting on school trips have been terrified by the gigantic blue whale suspended from the ceiling of the museum. Others seating in the darkened sphere of the Hayden Planetarium have let their imaginations run wild with dreams of space exploration.

The Hayden’s new presentation, which opened at the end of October, is a technically correct vision of a “Dark Universe.”

The space show celebrates the discoveries that have led to better knowledge of the structure and history of our universe and our place in it. Audiences are taken out of our Milky Way and dropped alongside a parachute gliding through Jupiter’s atmosphere.

It delves into the so-called “Big Bang” theory of earth’s creation and breakthroughs that have afforded astronomers the opportunity to confront two great cosmic mysteries: dark matter and dark energy.

Thus “Dark Universe.”

As with everything created by teams at the AMNH and Hayden, Dark Universe is meticulous in its presentation. But while museum promotion touts it as “…offering visitors of all ages a front row seat to the beauty and mystique of our universe with scientifically accurate and stunning visualizations,” it misses the boat in its appeal to the younger set.

Adults and older teens will appreciate the trip into the cosmos but it seems to be a stretch that younger children will sit quietly through a darkly scientific show. They want to see glitz and flashing objects, not an esoteric study of black matter.

That being said, there is no question that the show will intrigue an older audience. Dark Universe was created by an award-winning team that included astrophysicists, educators and science visualization experts. There is data from NASA and European Space Agency missions, ground-based telescopes, super computer simulations and research conducted at institutions from around the world.

Seen through the lens of the giant telescope at California’s Mount Wilson Observatory, it expands on the theory of the universe expanding and delves into the new mystery of invisible dark matter holding galaxies together. This is a subject perhaps too deep for younger visitors.
The show is intriguing in what we know, what we speculate and what we will learn in time to come. You can’t go wrong with a visit combination of the Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium.

With all of the negative news coming over the wires in recent days about airlines crushing passengers into smaller seat space, it’s always welcome to pass along something positive about air travel.

Two of the classier airlines flying today, Virgin America and Emirates, have announced that they have entered a frequent flyer partnership that will allow members to earn and redeem points with either carrier. This will hold true for the entire network served by Virgin and Emirates.

Both Virgin and Emirates have been recognized as best-in-class for global and U.S. domestic service. Condé Nast Readers Travelers Choice Awards has named Virgin America best U.S. airline every year since 2007 and Best Domestic Airline in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards for six years running.

Emirates, with one of the youngest fleets in the air, has scored high marks for its in-flight cuisine and entertainment. It has been named Airline of the Year in 2013 for overall excellence in guest services by Skytrax.

Beginning immediately members of their loyalty programs will earn mileage credit for flights on either carrier and will be able to redeem them with either as well. Emirates serves 135 destinations in 76 countries, including its home base of Dubai.