American Museum of Natural History, Part 3: Planetary Science Halls

The remaining exhibits of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (not mentioned in the previous two posts) are scattered throughout several planetary science halls, including:

  • The Hall of Meteorites (named after philanthropist Arthur Ross) – containing the largest meteorite on display at any museum in the world (the Willamette Meteorite, at 34 tons; below), as well as five-billion-year-old extra-solar “nanodiamonds”, which are so small that more than a quadrillion of them could fit into a single cubic centimeter!

  • The Hall of Gems and Minerals (named after diplomat, aviator, publisher and philanthropist Harry Frank Guggenheim) – containing over 100,000 pieces in its collection, among which are several pieces stolen during a high-profile jewel heist in 1964, including the 116.75-carat Midnight Star Ruby (later recovered), the 100.32-carat DeLong Star Ruby (later recovered for a $25,000 ransom), the 16.25 carat Eagle Diamond (which, unfortunately, was never recovered), and the 563.35-carat Star of India star sapphire (later recovered from a bus station locker in Miami).
  • The Hall of Planet Earth (named after billionaires David S. and Ruth L. Gottesman) – devoted to the history of Earth, from its initial accretion to the origin of life.

The Rose Center for Earth and Space is an iconic building (having been compared to a “cosmic cathedral”) consisting of a 6-story-high glass cube enclosing a large illuminated spherical planetarium known as the Hayden Sphere (top). The structure encloses 333,500 square feet of research, education, and exhibition spaces highlighting humanity’s connection to the cosmos. When the center first opened, in 2000, its planetary model made headlines since it was only showing only eight planets (above). It was the controversial decision of Neil deGrasse Tyson (the center’s first and, to date, only director) to exclude Pluto, which was traditionally considered to be the 9th planet.

  • The Hayden Planetarium – a newly rebuilt planetarium (established with funding from philanthropist Charles Hayden), which is one of two main attractions within the Rose Center (the original of which operated from 1935 to 1997).
  1. The top half of the sphere houses the Star Theater, which is used to project “space shows” based on current astrophysical data; it also houses a customized Zeiss Star Projector, which accurately replicates the night sky as seen from Earth.
  2. The bottom half of the sphere, on the other hand, houses the Big Bang Theater, which depicts the birth of the universe in a four-minute program narrated by Liam Neeson.
  • The Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway – the second of the building’s two main attractions, which winds its way around the Hayden Sphere, connecting the Rose Center’s 1st and 2nd floors (below). The pathway’s 100-yard spiral provides a timeline of the universe’s 13-billion-year history from the Big Bang to the present, where each inch represents 3 million years and the entire human era is depicted at the end of the pathway as the thickness of a human hair!

Located adjacent to the Rose Center for Earth and Space is a rooftop plaza, known as the Arthur Ross Terrace, designed to be both an outdoor gathering place for museum visitors as well as a stage set that celebrates both astronomy and Earth’s natural history.

  • Visited: Oct 2014

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