Planetarium Turns Out the Lights for New Show, ‘Dark Universe’

by Ryder W. Miller

Scientists have been busy studying earthquakes, meteors and searching for life in the solar system, significantly altering our understanding of the universe in the last decade.

“Dark Universe,” a new plan- etarium show at the Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences, was writ- ten by best-selling Bay Area writer Timothy Ferris, and pro- duced by the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The film ushers in a new understanding of the cosmos gained from recent dis- coveries of dark energy and dark matter. Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, nar- rates the planetarium show.

It was once believed that the expansion of the universe was slowing down after The Big Bang, more than 13 billion years ago, due to gravity. We now understand that the rate of expan- sion is increasing due to dark energy and dark matter. Astronomers have discovered that outer space is a lot more crowded than they had realized.

In the past we could only detect five percent of what we now know exists. The other 95 percent is filled with dark energy and dark matter. The repulsive force of this energy has the universe expanding rather than pulling it inward due to gravity.

These new discoveries will not enable us to surmount the limitations of the speed of light, scientists say, so there will be no warp drive or new ability to travel faster than the speed of light to reach other stars in our lifetime. It appears now that what was once considered a vacuum has more matter and energy than was once believed.

The nearest star to Earth is Alpha Centauri, 4.2 light years, or 40 million kilometers, away. It

joins 11 other stars that are less than 11 light years from the Earth.

“Dark Universe” has stop points in the presentation, where Academy presenters can add the most recent discoveries.

Meanwhile the “search for extraterrestrial intelligence” has improved with the development of the Square Mile Telescope, which will add magnitudes of new receptive powers for the detection of beamed signals from other planets.

For more information about “Dark Universe,” go to the website at http://www.calacademy.org.

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