Rose Center for Earth and Space

New York

Reviewed by Scott Sells

The Rose Center for Earth and Space (featuring the Hayden Planetarium) in New York City is a science museum for the general, multi-cultural public. Most of the exhibits are aimed at people of any age, and are therefore wonderfully broad. Yet, most of the visitors seem to pass by each exhibit too quickly to really understand the idea or process it tries to convey. This is due to the large amount of reading material presented, and a lack of interactivity. For those who do take the time to read, many of the exhibits are fascinating and informative.

One of the more interesting exhibits is a glass globe filled mostly with water. Inside is a large rock, and several small sea creatures. The globe is completely enclosed, except for a small system which recycles the air and water. This is a complete ecosystem. Most of the visitors (especially children), however, just run up to the globe and watch the fish, without realizing what they are actually looking at.

There is a conical table which represents the corona of the sun. By looking down at it from above, swirling patterns can be observed, that very closely resemble the sun's corona. It is probably filled with water and sand, and is churned in just the right way to simulate the correct behavior.

One of the more popular exhibits is the iron meteorite. It is possible to touch the surface of the meteorite, and kids in particular seem to enjoy this. Next to it is a bucket filled with a finely grained sand and a plunger in the lid. When the plunger is pulled and then released, it hits the sand and simulates the impact of a meteor into a planet.

Another popular exhibit with the kids is not so much an exhibit but rather a series of small distractions. Throughout the center, there are foot scales imbedded in the floor, where a person can determine his or her weight on various stellar bodies, such as Mars, the moon, the sun, and even a red giant star.

The most impressive exhibit, however, is the "Scales of the Universe" display. This is a series of models which encircle the Hayden Sphere, a massive geodesic sphere in the center of the building. Each of the smaller models compares itself to the Hayden Sphere, and as a person walks around the exhibit, the scales represented get smaller and smaller. For example, near the middle, there is are models of all the planets in our solar system (Mars it little bigger than a clenched fist, and the Earth is about the size of a large cantaloupe). At this point, the Hayden Sphere represents the sun. At the very end of the exhibit, the Hayden sphere represents a hydrogen atom, and the small model in front represents a proton. This is a wonderful exhibit if the time is taken to move along and read all of the information. Unfortunately, most people do not stop to read, but instead move past quickly, perhaps pause slightly when the planets are reached, and then continue.

Overall, the Rose Center is a fun place to learn about Earth and Space science, but it does not seem to envision itself as a place of education. Rather, it is a place for entertainment with a small amount of educational value. If more of the exhibits were interactive, and explained concepts with images and sound as well as the documentation that already exists, it would be more successful as an educational center.