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Illuminating a dark universe

Space show brings the unseen to light

By
4:30pm, May 3, 2014
Dark matter simulated as black filaments in new planetarium show, Dark Universe.

WEBS OF MATTER  A vast web of dark matter, simulated as black filaments in the planetarium show Dark Universe, provides the universe’s large-scale structure. Gas collects at filament intersections to form the luminous galaxies seen in the night sky.

A hundred years ago, astronomers knew of just one galaxy: our own. Today they know the universe hosts billions. What’s more, the visible stuff of galaxies is dwarfed by dark matter, and each galaxy is racing away from the others due to an even more mysterious entity: dark energy. Dark Universe, developed by the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium in New York City, compresses a century of discovery into a crisp, comprehensible half hour.

Now showing in spots across the country, the film merges spectacular scientific results with breathtaking computer simulations. The Big Bang bangs, the speckled Cosmic Microwave Background is written onto the sky and a vast cosmic web expands to fill space. From there the story launches itself into the unknown: Scientists don’t yet understand dark matter or dark energy; large parts of the sky remain unmapped.

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