Our Favorite Things: Big Dipper

DSCN0053On the third floor of the main MOSI building, just to the right of the High Wire Bike there are seven small white balls that hang from the ceiling. When viewed from near the elevator or the balcony where you can enter Science Works Theater, this group of white globes goes mostly unnoticed and does not contain a familiar shape. Interestingly, this collection of orbs has a unique history at MOSI, which makes it one of our favorite things.

In 1995 MOSI opened its doors and contained exhibits on Florida, health and space. The 3rd floor space exhibit eventually became timeworn and the information out-dated so it was removed in 2010 to make way for our new high-tech health exhibit called The Amazing You. Portions of the exhibit, like a model Apollo capsule were relocated to other parts of the museum and the outdated DSCN0054pieces of the exhibit were scrapped. This cluster of suspended globes is the last exhibit remaining in place from our selection of space science exhibits.

When viewed straight on from just to the right of the High Wire Bike, these orbs resolve into the familiar shape of the well known constellation the Big Dipper. These seven orbs represent the stars in the constellation and their relative distance to Earth:

Star Magnitude Distance (L yrs)
Dubhe 1.8 124
Merak 2.4 79
Phecda 2.4 84
Megrez 3.3 81
Alioth 1.8 81
Mizar 2.1 78
Alkaid 1.9 101

When viewed straight on from the 3rd floor, the shape of the Big Dipper is the same as it appears in our night sky, viewed straight on from earth. A walk down the balcony beside Science Works Theater shows us the distance of the stars from imageone another, especially the star Dubhe which is quite distant from many of the stars in the constellation. Also known as The Great Bear or Ursa Major this constellation has been referenced throughout history including in the Bible as “the seven stars” (Amos 5.8) and in Homer’s Iliad as “the Bear”.

Although there are no longer signs to reference this display, the stars remain in place and are a great talking point for MOSI interactors and a great bit of trivia for our members and guests. The Big Dipper display was the first permanent exhibit installed at MOSI and is the favorite exhibit of long-time MOSI staffer Brian Albury.

Brian is the Director of Facility Operations and Information Technology for MOSI and has been with the museum for 16 years.

No comments:

Post a Comment