Peabody Exhibition Explores Biggest Mystery of Cosmos

September 28, 2010

New Haven—An exhibition soon to open at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History explores what we know, don’t know, and think we know about one of the world’s greatest space mysteries—black holes . These regions in space, sometimes only a few kilometers across, have gravity so powerful that light cannot escape and matter drawn into them is lost forever. Einstein imagined black holes but doubted they could exist in nature. Today evidence suggests they are quite common.


Opening October 9 and running through May 1, 2011, Black Holes: Space Warps & Time Twists is designed like a space mission. Visitors are briefed, issued a Black Holes Explorer ID Card, then sent on a journey to the edge of these strange phenomena to discover how the latest research is turning science fiction into fact, challenging our notions of space and time in the process. 


Visitors create an electronic journal and generate a personalized website of their visit accessible from home. The website serves as part personal diary, part observer’s log, and will include data they have gathered, conclusions, questions, and photos they’ve captured of their activities. Videos of the Youth Team exhibit collaborators and a diverse team of scientists and engineers help guide visitors through their explorations.


The most thrilling interactive experience comes near the end. Space travelers of all ages are invited to step into an immersive excursion pod and set their course for a fantasy voyage to a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Travelers will experience the black hole’s spectacular effect on environment, space and time and guard against unexpected emergencies, prompting a fall into the black hole itself!


The Peabody has augmented the exhibition with a section on Yale scientists who are looking for and studying black holes. Some are investigating the smaller "stellar black holes" generated by collapsing stars, particularly those in double star systems. Others, exploring the influence of supermassive black holes on the evolution of galaxies, utilize the online astronomy project "Galaxy Zoo" co-founded by a Yale astrophysicist. These exciting projects are extending our knowledge of how these amazing objects behave and shape our universe.


Black Holes: Space Warps & Time Twists was produced by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Teams of teenagers from the Youth Astronomy Apprenticeship Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Galaxy Explorers Black Hole Youth Media Team at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, CA  collaborated with exhibit designers to help make Black Holes a tremendously interactive exhibit. Funding was provided by a generous grant from the National Science Foundation with additional major support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


 The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is located at 170 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 to 5, and on Sundays from noon to 5. Unless otherwise noted, admission to exhibits and programs is free with admission of $9 adults, $68seniors, and $5 children 3-18. It is free for Museum members, Yale I.D. holders, and children under age 3. On Thursdays from 2 to 5 p.m., except in July and August, no admission is charged. Visit or call the Infotape at 203-432-5050 for additional information.