The Hidden Cosmos – Visualising dark matter

No matter how hard you squint your eyes, some things will always remain invisible to the naked eye: molecules, for instance, and the atoms that make them up, shall remain hidden, this is fundamental for us to put mathematically supported faith in…” (DeGrasse, 2014)

The new exhibition at the New York Museum of Natural History, Dark Universe, utilises the Hayden Planetarium to enable the audience to experience the mysteries of Dark Matter (matter that doesn’t emit or absorb light, yet still has a gravitational force). Dark Universe explores both the known and unknown aspects of our universe and aims to help explain the concepts to a broad audience. It explores the creation of the universe from the big-bang and how dark matter helps explain the expansion and growth of everything.

“Ultimately science is about finding out what we want to know about the universe, what is really exciting for us is what would be exciting for most people if they understand what is going on – it’s all about translating those ideas” (DeGrasse, 2014)

Dark Universe 2014

Dark Universe 2014

The Dark Universe is a celebration of the unknown. Although visually stunning this film is not an artistic interpretation of what happened, but is modelled around real scientific data. The team that created this piece used real data and computer modelling to create the most detailed recreation of the universe yet. Although this information has been available for a while, it has not been used to visualise the data in this format before. The piece is aimed at a very broad audience, from children to astronomers with the aim of helping them experience a concept that cannot be seen. It is another way of taking the story of our origins to people.  The animations and allow audiences to experience ideas and places that were once impossible to articulate, let alone visualise on a projector screen.

The entire piece took around 4 years to produce using data from the National Astrophysical Observatory of Japan. The piece was presented using projection specialists GOTO inc. and 3D modellers at HiFi 3D on their Hybrid Planetarium system which utilises projectors to create a full dome projection on the curved screen.

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