MISSOULA – What is it like on other planets? Does life exist beyond Earth? What’s happening on the sun and how does it affect us? How is Earth changing? The University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area’s newest exhibition, “Sun, Earth, Universe,” will open on Wednesday, Jan. 16, to allow visitors explore our planet, the solar system and the universe, as well as the big questions NASA is trying to answer about each.
“Sun, Earth, Universe” will connect visitors with current NASA research and launch them on a journey to explore the universe through fun, hands-on exhibits for visitors of all ages. Visitors can follow the design-build-test cycle of engineering and build a model spacecraft; spin a tumbler of 10,000 beads, representing all of the stars we can see from Earth, to search for the unique one that symbolizes our sun; and reveal hidden images using the same tools NASA scientists employ to explore the otherwise invisible forces and energy of the universe.
The exhibition also includes a “Your Mission to Space” board game and a play table when younger visitors can pilot rovers across the Mars landscape. These experiences introduce visitors to ongoing NASA research in the fields of heliophysics, Earth science, planetary science and astrophysics and encourage them to imagine what the future of Earth and space science might hold.
“At spectrUM, we’re focused on inspiring children’s curiosity about science, higher education and careers,” said Jessie Herbert-Meny, spectrUM’s associate director. “We’re excited for this exhibition to spark our visitors’ curiosity about space science and more broadly to ignite their passion for learning and exploring.”
“This exhibition is a great resource for families to come and learn about the science behind what they see in the night sky or through a telescope,” said Nicholos Wethington, president of the Western Montana Astronomical Association and spectrUM making and tinkering program manager.
The exhibition was developed in collaboration with NASA, Arizona State University, the National Informal STEM Education Network and the Science Museum of Minnesota as part of a nationwide effort to engage audiences in Earth and space science.
SpectrUM Discovery Area is UM’s hands-on science center, serving more than 200,000 Montanans annually through in-museum and statewide mobile programming. SpectrUM is part of UM’s Broader Impacts Group, which harnesses the University’s research and creative scholarship to foster social mobility and a vibrant, homegrown workforce for Montana.
BIG and spectrUM are supported by an array of local and national funding sources, including the National Science Foundation, Montana NSF EPSCoR, NASA, the U.S. Department of Education, the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, the O.P. & W.E. Edwards Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Jane S. Heman Foundation and the Martin Family Foundation.
SpectrUM, located at 812 Toole Ave. in Missoula, is open from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Admission costs $3.50 for people ages 4 and over. Families who receive EBT benefits are eligible for free spectrUM memberships.
For more information or to book a school visit, call Herbert-Meny at 406-243-4828 or visit https://spectrum.umt.edu/.