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Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 100
Baltimore, Maryland 21218-3843
Phone: (410) 516-7160 / Fax (410) 516-5251

April 22, 1999
Gary Dorsey, gdd@jhu.edu

A Child's Touch Unveils Mysteries of
Satellite Universe

The chemical mysteries of astronomical science and cosmic origins gives way to a child's touch in a new permanent display at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore of the soon-to-be launched FUSE satellite.

When the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer is launched from Cape Canaveral on May 27, visitors at the Outer Place Space at the science center will not only be able to follow its orbital path as it speeds around the globe, but they will be able to investigate the birth, life and death of stars and dip into far regions of the electromagnetic spectrum just like the satellite will throughout its three-year mission.

As a showcase for today's golden age of astronomy, the science center offers hands-on interactive displays, video/audio clips, galactic models, live viewings of rocket launches and experiments that make ordinarily hard-to-understand concepts--galaxy formation, chemical evolution, the Big Bang--simple to grasp.

Just as textbooks are already being rewritten to reflect new knowledge generated by the great end-of-the-century observatories, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the science center's Outer Space Place brings the very dreams of today's astronomers straight to the public with its FUSE exhibit.

Planned for nearly 20 years by an international team led by Johns Hopkins astronomer Warren Moos, the FUSE mission is designed to scour the cosmos for the fossil record of the universe's birth, a chemical investigation of stars and galaxies and interstellar spaces that will reveal what conditions were like moments after the Big Bang. With data from FUSE, scientists hope to understand better how stars form, how galaxies evolve, and how the primordial chemicals were created and distributed throughout the universe since the beginning of time.

Just as an education awaits FUSE researchers, an education awaits visitors at the FUSE exhibit. Visitors can access a "live link" to the satellite control center on the Johns Hopkins campus and see, at any moment, what star or galaxy is being observed by the satellite.

Because FUSE observes a region of the spectrum that is invisible to the eye, the exhibit demonstrates how to make the unseen comprehensible. Astronomers at the university helped the science center staff create activities that show how scientists use a technique called "spectroscopy" to detect the chemical make-up of objects millions of light years from the Earth, how to detect physical conditions of the universe billions of years ago, and how to assess the speed of objects traveling across the far-away space.

In one part of the exhibit, visitors can actually build their own stars by mixing "scoops" of interstellar gases. By literally grasping the controls, even a child can begin to understand the scientific goals of a space mission that presently is at the vanguard of astronomical science.

Outer Space Place and the FUSE exhibit, fashioned by Johns Hopkins scientist Luciana Bianchi and other FUSE colleagues, opened April 15, with presentations by NASA astronauts Thomas D. Jones and Frederick Gregory as well as remarks by Theodore Poehler, vice provost of research at Johns Hopkins University, and Richard C. Henry, director of the Maryland Space Grant Consortium and a professor in the Johns Hopkins Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Related Links

FUSE Exhibit

FUSE Project homepage

Maryland Science Center/SpaceLink

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