The collection of planets, asteroids, nebulae and stars that make up everything we know about the vast expanse beyond Earth.
But humans and the solar system they inhabit are just a microdot on the massive canvas that makes up the cosmos.
What we can see via telescopes and other scientific devices constitutes only 5 percent of what is out there. The majority of space is made up of “dark energy” and “dark matter”; previously unknown materials that scientists are just now beginning to understand.
The public will get a chance to discover the nature of dark matter in an imaginative program this month at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
On Jan. 31, the Morrison Planetarium will present “Dark Universe” a new astronomy show which explores the forces that hold the heavens together and how new research has changed the way we view the cosmos.
Produced by staff at New York’s American Museum of Natural History in cooperation with the academy of sciences, the show will give viewers glimpses of deep space beyond the Milky Way galaxy, parachute them into Jupiter’s atmosphere and reveal what is known about the Universe and its dynamic nature.
The show was written by UC Berkeley Emeritus Professor Timothy Ferris who will talk about “The State of the Universe” during a Benjamin Dean Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 3 in the planetarium. A screening of the show will follow the talk.
“Dark Universe” is narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the natural history museum. Tyson is also working on a television remake of the “Cosmos” astronomy series made popular by the late Carl Sagan.
To create “Dark Universe” the producers called on the talents of astrophysicists, experts in creating visual science programs and gathered data collected during NASA and European Space Agency missions.
Scientists worldwide continue to explore the dark energy phenomenon using telescopes, superconducting particle colliders, and even instruments on the International Space Station.
Dark energy research has also led to breakthroughs in the theory of an expanding universe.
Though it was thought that gravity would act as a kind of brake to the speed of outward momentum, researchers discovered that dark energy between known galaxies was pushing back gravity with enough force to actually speed up the expansion process.
“Dark Universe” will be shown daily in the Morrison Planetarium through Oct.9
Tickets to the Dean Lecture are $8 for members, $12 general admission, and $10 for seniors. Seating is limited and advance ticketing is required. For more information, visit: http://www.calacademy.org/events/lectures/