FUSE Exhibit at the Maryland Science Center

We'll bring the stars down to you!!

Starting this winter, you will be able to see the FUSE exhibit at the Maryland Science Center (downtown Baltimore). It will be part of a whole new Space exhibit bringing continuous updates about discoveries from space!

You will learn about FUSE as well as HST, two missions within NASA's "Astronomical Search for Origins" program, that will both contribute - with different measurements - significant pieces of the puzzle, to ultimately unlock the mystery of the Origins of the Universe.

Here are some components of the exhibit developed by the FUSE Public Outreach personnel in partnership with the MSC:

*All About FUSE
*Spectroscopy: Reading Information from Light
*The Origin of the Universe: How was everything created?
*"Made in the Stars"







* All About
FUSE

At MSC, you will find a 1/3 scale FUSE model, a description of the instrument and the misssion, and a link to the FUSE Satellite Control Center. With a total cost of $110 million, FUSE is the largest NASA project to date managed and operated entirely by a University. A "live link" to the JHU Satellite Control Center (located in the Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy on Hopkins' Homewood Campus), will probably spark your curiosity for space science. You can see at any moment where FUSE is above the Earth in its orbit, what star or galaxy is currently being observed with FUSE, what other observations are planned, and you can get an idea of how astronomical observations are done using a telescope in space.


* Spectroscopy:
Reading Information from Light

FUSE will focus exclusively on the far ultraviolet range -- a realm of invisible light! Thus, the challenge before the FUSE scientist and the Science Center is to make the unseen comprehensible, and even informative. How can something we cannot see reveal the Universe to us? To explain this, hands-on interactive exhibitry exploring the electromagnetic spectrum and relating abstract scientific concepts to everyday experiences is being created. These exhibits will help visitors understand the electromagnetic spectrum (visible and invisible light), and discover what we can learn from light in different parts of the spectrum, including such things as the chemical make-up of stars and galaxies. The exhibit will address what FUSE will tell us about the evolution and origin of our Universe, our planet and ourselves.

Astronomers identify the presence of elements millions of light years distant by their spectra. Each element creates a unique spectrum similar to how each individual person has a unique fingerprint. Aboard FUSE, a spectrograph will divide incoming light into its component wavelengths, creating a spectral portrait of the astronomical object emitting or absorbing that light. Because each element has a unique spectral "fingerprint", astronomers are able to determine the exact chemical composition of an object from this portrait, as well as its velocity, temperature and other physical conditions.

We are helping the MSC to design activities which will allow visitors to understand spectroscopy, superficially read spectra, and learn how spectra can tell scientists the chemical make-up, physical conditions, and speed of an object in the distant Universe.

*You can learn that the electromagnetic spectrum (light) is composed of both visible and non-visible wavelengths, and how we experience those different types of energy everyday.
*You will gain an awareness of the technique of spectroscopy as a diagnostic tool for learning about the Universe.
*You will learn how studies at different wavelengths yield different and complementary information about astronomical objects.
*You will see how astronomers determine the chemistry, physical conditions, and motions of astronomical objects from their (visible and invisible) spectra.
*You will learn of how searching for specific chemical signatures in the Universe helps astronomers understand how the Universe was formed.
*You will discover how, using spectroscopy, astronomers explore how stars are born and how they age and die.
*You will gain an appreciation for the rhythm of stellar death and rebirth and the chemical evolution of the galaxies.
*You will understand how elements and gases found on Earth are found throughout the Universe, and that spectroscopy can also help astronomers search for life on other planets.




* The Origin of the Universe:
How was everything created?

One of FUSE's major science goals is to shed light on the Origins of the Universe. FUSE will measure the abundance of the isotope deuterium (the "heavy hydrogen") in a variety of astrophysical environments, from local gas clouds to distant clouds along the lines of sight toward quasars and active galactic nuclei. FUSE will be used to determine the extent to which stellar processing has modified the primordial (or "original" abundance of deuterium, thereby providing a better understanding of the amount of deuterium produced in the Big Bang. The primordial abundance of deuterium, a light isotope created only in the first few minutes after the Big Bang, is one of the three major tests of the Big Bang theory (the nucleosynthesis model: the primordial ratio of deuterium to hydrogen is very sensitive to the density of matter just after the explosion), and yields an independent measurement of the baryonic mass of the Universe. HST is providing major progress on another parameter of the Big Bang: the rate of expansion of the Universe, while COBE provided information on the microwave background radiation, the "echo" of the primordial explosion.

FUSE and HST exhibits at the MSC will tell you the up-to-date story about NASA's "Astronomical search for Origins", and how we are trying to better understand the origin of matter, energy, and even ourselves!




* "Made in the Stars"

All the matter was created in the Big Bang, but only in the form of a few light elements and isotopes (hydrogen and deuterium, helium, lithium). Where did all the other chemical elements come from? The oxygen that we breathe; the metals we make our tools from; iron that colors red rocks in our Planet and the whole of planet Mars; gold, silver.... the carbon - important constituent of all organic molecules, and silicon, that makes up the sand in our beaches and the microchips in our computers. They are ALL created in the nucleosynthesic processes that occur deep in stellar interiors, powerful nuclear furnaces fusing the light hydrogen nuclei and the subsequent products into heavier elements to create the variety of chemical species. In other words, the "stuff" we are made of, and we breathe, and we wear, and we eat... is all stellar-made.

How did stars transform part of the primordial gases (over billion of years) into the elements so familiar to us, and that make life possible? We want to help visitors understand the (indeed rather complex) process of stellar nucleosynthesis, and the circle of life and death of stars (in which the familiar elements are produced) by designing an easy, entertaining, hands-on activity.

In an electronic "Stellar power plant", you can create a star by pumping in solar-size "scoops" of interstellar gases, you can "turn on" your star and watch it evolve through its entire life, and then compare the elements it produces to what is found in the chemical periodic table. What will you find out? Here is a hint: stars of different masses have very different lifetimes, very different fates (some will end with a big supernova explosion, some will create the delicate, beautiful Planetary Nebulas, some will just fade silently away). Most importantly, stars of different masses produce different chemical elements in various quantities. So try to make different stars and see what happens! An illuminated display will show you the chemical elements produced by your stars: can you compare them with spectroscopy of planets in the solar system including Earth?


Stay tuned!!

You will find most of the FUSE exhibitry (as well as the new and improved Hubble Space Telescope displays) in the permanent display area at MSC, with more fun things about astronomy and space science. But we'll also update you in the future, through the interactive part of the museum, about FUSE launch, and subsequent observations and discoveries as they happen!

Contact:
Dr. Luciana Bianchi
Coordinator, FUSE Public Outreach and Education Program
Email: bianchi@stsci.edu

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