Sea Gives Way to Sky at Ocean Explorium's Hubble Exhibit

By Don Cuddy

Lindsey Rocha an Ocean Explorium aquarist takes a look at the newly arrived displays including one of a composite of photos of some of the planets in our solar system. A traveling exhibit run by NASA featuring the incredible images taken with the Hubble Space telescope finds itself for the next 3 months at the Ocean Explorium in downtown New Bedford. Photo Peter Pereira/The Standard-Times

NEW BEDFORD — There is a lot more to explore at the Ocean Explorium with today’s opening of a NASA traveling exhibit on the Hubble space telescope.
“This is huge for New Bedford. It will be an eye-opening experience for everyone who sees it,” said Abbey Spargo, education programs coordinator at the Explorium. “This exhibit has never been in New England before and, if anyone wants to see it over the next three months, they will have to come here.”
NASA personnel arrived in the city Monday and worked until the last minute Wednesday, putting the final touches to “New Views of the Universe,” an exhibit that has been touring the United States for the past five years.
“We’re reaching out to smaller museums and trying to visit places we wouldn’t normally get to,” said Maurice Henderson, the Hubble exhibits planner from NASA’s Goddard Space Center in Maryland. The 2,000-square-foot exhibit features some breathtaking images from deep space, as well as a number of interactive displays and a scale model of the Hubble Telescope. Since the Hubble was first launched in 1990, images from the telescope have helped shed new light on the fundamental nature of the universe itself.
“We want the community to come out and see this. The mission is really to let people appreciate the awesomeness of our universe,” Henderson said. “We also hope that viewing it might motivate young people to consider careers in math, science and engineering.”
The exhibit was consciously designed to appeal to a broad audience, he said. “There are some interactives and lots of good reference points to engage you. There are also some games that help you learn about things such as the gravitational pull of planets. So it’s appealing for all ages.”
The principal attractions, of course, are the stunning images delivered from the telescope, which orbits the Earth every 90 minutes. Because the Hubble is 370 miles above the Earth’s atmosphere, it can produce a much sharper image than earthbound telescopes and, over the years, periodic visits from the space shuttle have enabled astronauts to upgrade much of its equipment.
According to the NASA display, if the human eye could see as clearly as the Hubble, then a man standing in New York would be able to see two fireflies, 3 feet apart, in San Francisco.
“This is a real coup for the Ocean Explorium, and for the city of New Bedford, and I think it shows how far we have come in such a short time,” Explorium executive director Mark Smith said.
The exhibit also includes a presentation on the successor to the Hubble, a large infrared space observatory to be named the James Webb telescope that will become operational in 2014.
The Explorium has arranged for a series of speakers to come to New Bedford in the weeks ahead to provide additional background on the exhibit. “On (October) 13th and the 25th we have speakers from NASA coming in to talk more about current research and what they do every day,” Spargo said.
IF YOU GO: Regular hours at the Ocean Explorium are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. For information about the Explorium, visit or contact Ellen Carpenter at (508) 994-5400.
October 08, 2009
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