Zoom In! Exhibit

After our discovery of the most distant explosion yet known, in 2005, we were invited by Morehead Planetarium and Science Center to develop an exhibit with them. Built in a circular room, it was a powers-of-ten exhibit, featuring the Department of Physics and Astronomy’s nanotech research on small scales and astronomy research on large scales, culminating with our discovery on the largest scales.

Our side of the exhibit featured our development of the original PROMPT site at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in the Chilean Andes, our development of the Skynet Robotic Telescope Network globally, an interactive powers-of-ten video that we helped to develop, and the telescope that made the discovery — it was a temporary telescope that we had deployed while the permanent telescopes were being made, so we could soon afford to retire it for the exhibit. (Actually, it was one of two identical temporary telescopes that we had deployed — to be honest, I had lost track of which one made the discovery, so I’m still not sure if we had the right one on display...) Visitors could move it around using a joystick.

We also developed a simplified version of the Skynet interface that even elementary school students could navigate. Visitors could select one of up to nine then-observable objects, and enter their (or a parent’s) email address. Skynet and PROMPT then imaged the requested object, usually that night, and emailed them a link to the image the following day. They could then observe more objects from the list using the same interface, but online instead of from the planetarium. Approximately 20,000 visitors to the planetarium used Skynet in this way.

The exhibit, and the interface, are now retired.