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    111: Explore the Universe

Explore the Universe (Gallery 111)

This room covers the history of man’s observations about the heavens and how they helped us refine our understanding the universe.

The first third of the exhibit illustrates the development of the telescope, from the early glass and mirror models of Galileo’s 17th-century “optic tube” and 18th-century British astronomer William Herschel’s 20-foot telescope, to modern satellite observatories currently flying in space.

The technical details of telescope construction get dry quickly, but two things make this gallery worth a visit. First, there’s excellent photography displayed in the exhibits, showcasing the increasing ability of successive generations of telescopes to see farther and clearer. Second, there’s a good, simple explanation of what Edwin Hubble did to get his name on the Hubble Space Telescope: discover that the universe is expanding, and expanding faster and faster. That helped support the “Big Bang” theory of the universe’s origin, and much of the middle part of this gallery describes later experiments, using different techniques, that also support the Big Bang.

Other Lands at Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum