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read more » 31st Aug 2017 11:28
The Observatory Science Centre
East Sussex
BN27 1RN
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Astronomy & Time Exhibits

Photo by Martin Saban-Smith The Domes of Discovery exhibition includes six interactive exhibits which show various techniques that are used in astronomy, a video and four interactive exhibits about time.

We are also very proud of our large scale Orrery (see separate section below for more details).

Using a laser beam the Light Paths exhibit shows you how light travels through a telescopes that uses lenses (refracting telescope) and a telescope that uses mirrors (reflecting telescope). There is also an exhibit that allows you to reflect light off a mirror and refract light through a lens. See if you can form the starry image. 

Parallax is an important technique used to measure the distance to nearby stars. Look at a star field and work out how this is done.

Spectroscopy is one of the most important discoveries in astronomy and can be used by astronomers to work out numerous things. For example, what stars are made of, their temperatures, how fast they are moving and whether they are moving away from us or coming towards us (to name just a few). The spectroscopy exhibit shows you the difference between the spectrum produced by an incandescent bulb (like an ordinary light bulb) and a fluourescent tube. This exhibit forms part of an exhibition about the Electromagnetic Spectrum which incorporates panels explaining the different types of energy and what they are used for. This exhibition was funded by the STFC for the International Year of Light 2015 and includes another interactive exhibit showing Sir Isaac Newton's experiment when he split white light into the visible spectrum and then recombined it. 

A globe with a small model of a telescope stuck to it shows how an equatorial mount works. By turning the handle to rotate the globe you can see that the telescope still points to the same spot. The telescopes at Herstmonceux were called the equatorial group because of the way they are mounted. This meant that they could track the stars perfectly as the Earth spun on its axis. This was very important for taking long exposure photographs which were analysed in positional astronomy in order to map out the sky and give stars celestial coordinates.

Alongside the interactive astronomy exhibits there are a few exhibits relating to Time, to link in with the importance of The Royal Greenwich Observatory to ‘Greenwich Mean Time'.

This orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system showing the movement of the major planets around the Sun. It also shows the Moon in orbit around Earth. It has been designed with 52 brass gears so the planets orbit around the Sun at roughly the right speed in relation to each other. You will notice how the inner planets move a lot faster than the outer planets. 

It is not to scale because if it were the Sun would have to be very much bigger; over 100 times the diameter of the Earth (about half the diameter of this dome!) Also the planets don’t have circular orbits as shown; they move in slightly elliptical orbits with varying degrees of eccentricity. This would be difficult to represent mechanically.

Working models of the Solar System called planetaria have been around since antiquity but the first orrey of the modern era showing the planets orbiting the Sun, was built in 1704 by clockmakers George Graham and Thomas Tompion. The key feature is a Sun centred (Heliocentric) model which was only beginning to be accepted during the late 17th Century. The design for the model was given to John Rowley who made a copy in 1713 for his patron Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery which is where the name orrery comes from.

Constellation Quest

This exhibit has been created using technology that enables a futuristic ‘Minority Report' style interaction where users engage simply with hand and arm movements.

Interpreting the constellations, visitors point to mythical characters and drag them to the correct position in the sky. This style of interface is a major step forward in the scope of exhibit design. Immersive, interactive and intuiative, it provides a unique visitor experience in the world of museum and science centre interactives. The computer interface and software has been written and created in-house by our parent charity Science Projects Ltd, making it easily adaptable to a whole range of subjects.
Astronomy and Time Exhibit List