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Saturn: Exploring a Celestial Wonder




Funded by the Emil Buehler Trust 


Saturn has intrigued viewers since it was first glimpsed through a telescope almost 400 years ago by Galileo Galilei. Since then, astronomers in each generation, have studied -- and more recently probed -- Saturn in quest of knowledge that could shed light on the history of our Solar System and our place in the universe.

A glimpse into that world of discovery is being provided by a new exhibit, Saturn: Exploring A Celestial Wonderin the Planetarium Gallery at The Newark Museum.

Centuries before it was seen by Galileo, Saturn, visible to the naked eye as a yellow point of light moving through the stars, became the stuff of myth and legend. So intrigued are we with the ringed planet, that its image has almost become a symbol for outer space.


Mounted by the Museum's Planetarium Science Educator Bill McClain, the viewer-friendly exhibit provides a colorful and fascinating look at the history of Saturn exploration through beautiful images provided by NASA, The European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. Funding was provided by The Emil Buehler Trust.


One of the highlights of the exhibit is ViewSpace, a computer kiosk that reveals current up-to-date images from Saturn and other planets transmitted back to earth as part of an international project. ViewSpace images and information are provided daily by NASA.


"We are very excited and fortunate to be part of this current effort," McClain said. "Visitors to the Dreyfuss Planetarium will get a real sense of the wonders of space exploration. Through ViewSpace, they will gain information as fresh and current as possible. The exhibit is visitor-friendly and will provide knowledge for the first-time visitor as well as the Planetarium veteran." Similar stations have been established to receive daily space exploration information in 33 states.


Saturn's beautiful and complex rings set it apart from the other planets in our Solar System. McClain points out that there are actually three other ringed planets - Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune - in our system, but none as spectacular. The probe of the mysteries of Saturn began in 1997 when the Cassini-Huygens Mission, an international effort supported by 18 countries, was launched from Cape Canaveral on a 1.4 billion kilometer journey, a trek that took seven years, McClain said. In July, 2004, the Cassini Orbiter went into its orbital tour of the Saturnian system and will be transmitting images back to earth for the next few years.


About the size of a school bus, the Cassini Orbiter launched the Huygens probe to Saturn's moon, Titan, on December 24, 2004. It landed on Titan January 14, 2005, and sent back information for about 4 hours.


The exhibit features some of the latest NASA images of the planet, plus:

  • A large illustration of Saturn's rings by space artist L. Wayne Buinis.
  • A timeline of scientific discovery from Galileo through the Pioneer and Voyager missions.
  • A hands-on model of Saturn's moon Mimas.
  • Basic facts about Saturn plus recent images of the moons and rings.
  • A hands-on demonstration showing how cloud bands form in Saturn's atmosphere.
  • An interactive flip-panel quiz.
  • A computer game to test visitor's knowledge about the ringed planet.
  • A video kiosk featuring movies about the Cassini mission and Huygens probe.
  • A scale model of the Cassini spacecraft.
  • ViewSpace computer kiosk (see above).

The Planetarium's ever popular meteorite remains on display next to the Viewspace station. This is a 120 lb. piece of "Canyon Diablo" meteorite that formed Meteor Crater. Touch a rock from space!

Starting in November, the planetarium will feature a new show about the Solar System to complement the Saturn exhibit entitled  To Worlds Beyond . From the sun-baked surface of Mercury to the spectacular rings of Saturn and the frozen wastelands of Pluto, this 40-minute star show is a fascinating voyage of discovery to the mysterious worlds of outer space. Narrated by Star Trek's Patrick Stewart, the show is recommended for adults as well as children ages 10 and up. To Worlds Beyond opens November 23rd.


The Planetarium Gallery is free with Museum Admission. Tickets for Planetarium shows are available for a nominal fee. Call 973-596-6529 for more information. 

Note: all schools and groups must have advance reservations, visit School and Teacher Programs.  

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