NEW YORK--As part of Road Trip 2010, CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman got a chance to visit with Carter Emmert, the director of astrovisualiztion at the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium. Emmart talked about the science of, and the scientific community behind, the planetarium's 10-year-old, state-of-the-art dome, and the show "Journey to the Stars" that is being presented there based on data sets collected by researchers the world over.
This is a rare view of the planetarium dome, seen from above.
The planetarium utilizes six projectors to present its shows inside the dome. Here, these six monitors show the broken up simulated imagery of the birth of the first stars that would be shown inside the planetarium dome.
Carter Emmart, the director of astrovisualization at the Hayden Planetarium, explains the institution's Digital Universe Atlas project. The project takes viewers on a journey from the Earth and far beyond our solar system and Milky Way galaxy and to the outer reaches of what scientific data has been able to measure.
The Digital Universe Atlas project allows Emmart and others at the Hayden Planetarium, to incorporate data from specific places and times. Here, then, we see satellite imagery displayed inside the planetarium's dome, showing the smoke trailing from the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull on May 15.
In this image, seen on a computer monitor, Emmart is focusing his presentation of satellite imagery on the Gulf of Mexico after the Deep Water Horizon explosion and oil spill. In the image, the darker areas along the gulf coast show some of the spread of the oil.
With Digital Universe, Emmart and the Hayden Planetarium can take viewers deep into space on interstellar missions. Here, we see a representation of NASA's Cassini spacecraft on its voyage to inspect the moons of Saturn. With the Digital Universe, Emmart has made it possible to zoom in on realistic visual interpretations of true data collected by scientists and then move around them freely as if there was a camera in space around Cassini.
This is a digital representation--as part of the Digital Universe, seen inside the dome at the Hayden Planetarium--of a view of the observable galaxies of our universe, based on data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the most ambitious attempt to catalog the galaxies ever done.
The Earth is at the center of this image, and it appears somewhat like the wings of a butterfly because, according to the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, "The region between the wedges was not mapped by the SDSS because dust in our own galaxy obscures the view of the distant universe in these directions."
Although the Digital Universe is based entirely on data that has been gathered by scientists--and no extrapolation--this image does represent Emmart's ability, with the show, to go just beyond what has been observed by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and look back on it. The blue and yellow areas around the "butterfly wings" are quasars on the outer edges of observable space.
In an image from the Hayden Planetarium's Journey to the Stars show--seen on a computer monitor inside the planetarium's computer lab--we see a digital representation of what scientists imagine the fusion reactions below the surface of the sun would be like.