Did you ever wonder what it would be like to fly around Mercury – that tiny planet fried by the sun – or what the entire universe would look like if you could stand back and get a God’s eye view?
Or would you like to watch a global map of every airplane in the sky over the course of one day, or follow the path of some of the biggest tsunamis that have happened in the past few years, or watch the 500 million-year-long process as continents have drifted around the planet?
Well, with something called Science on a Sphere, which officially opened Saturday at Science Central, you can see all of that and a lot more.
The $1.5 million addition to the museum is composed of a large carbon fiber sphere painted white, and projectors mounted in the corners of the room can give people a 360-degree view of just about anything you can think of.
The concept was originated in the labs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a fanciful idea. Later, NASA got involved, and by the late 1990s the first Science on a Sphere was installed.
As of last week there were 100 such displays around the world, mostly in foreign countries. Saturday, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Science Central’s version became the 101st.
There are about 500 different programs that can be projected onto the sphere, said Maurice Henderson of NASA, who was on hand for opening day. New programs can be designed by just about anyone, and they can be shared by all the museums and other centers that have Science on a Sphere.
Before the actual ribbon cutting Saturday, Henderson was running through some of the various programs. One was a map of the entire universe.
Another showed the temperature of the universe, with the hot spots and cold spots. The universe overall is just a couple of degrees warmer than absolute zero.
A program allows you to view ocean currents, the same ones that have been in existence for millions of years, while another program shows plant life in the ocean as it waxes and wanes with the seasons.
One program shows carbon output around the world and how the tiny particles are carried around the planet by winds.
A program that shows all airplane flights taking place during a single day resembles tiny ants crawling all over a giant ball.
The display is what Henderson calls a blank canvas. It can be used to display almost anything you can think of, such as a beating heart, a tour of the solar system and Facebook connections around the world.
Another nice part about the display, which has been under construction since April, is that it is fully paid for, said Martin Fisher, executive director of Science Central.