At the core of the visitor experience at the Austin Planetarium, Science Museum and
Technology Center are the exhibit galleries. These special spaces use a variety of design
approaches to convey information that engages and delights the visitors. They are the
essence of the mission of the facility and are carefully executed to appeal to all appetites
for learning at all age levels. These spaces are organized in galleries that comprise the
exhibit path for visitors.
The science galleries engage visitors in the breathtaking ways that science enables us to
understand and change our world. They show us real things and fascinating phenomena.
They introduce us to people—scientists of the past and present—to create role models
and open career paths for students. They expose us to challenging ideas and give us a
chance to imagine our future. They make science visible as an essential part in the human
quest to make a better world.
The Austin Planetarium opens new pathways into integrated science, breaking through
artificial boundaries and showing how science and technology work together across disciplines.
Its exhibits will be oriented in three interrelated directions:
Basic Science —
These are activity-based exhibits that focus on core curriculum areas
using themes such as how things move (Newtonian physics), electricity and magnetism,
the sub-atomic world, how substances interact with each other (chemistry), how life is organized
and how it changes (biology), the hidden beauty of numbers (Mathematics learned
through number patterns, geometry, visualization of quantitative information, puzzles
and more), light, waves, and particles, and how the earth is structured. These exhibits
build upon best-of-breed science exhibits from around the world, applying both physical
mechanics and computer visualization to aid learning.
Game-Changing Technology —
Texas is home to some of the most forward-thinking, leading-
edge technology companies in the world. These exhibit areas focus on subjects like
energy production, computing and display technology, health sciences, robotics, space
technology and many others that bring different scientific disciplines into contact with
each other. Visitors explore the way these key technologies work and the worlds of knowledge
and possibility they open. For instance, one of the exhibit areas will focus on the
manufacture of silicon wafers and integrated circuits, illustrating at the same time the further
advances in sciences that computational visualization makes possible. Most of these
exhibits are unique to Austin, while a few will leverage what has succeeded elsewhere.
Big, Interesting Problems —
Science gives us ways to solve global problems like building
domestic energy sources, improving health and conquering disease, increasing and improving
food production, preserving natural systems, improving global communication,
and making education more broadly accessible. These galleries can be changed on an ongoing
basis to focus on subjects that are current and relevant to people around the state
and the United States. They bring different disciplines together in focused and targeted
ways, and engage visitors in thinking about ways to improve the world. They will all be
unique to Austin, designed to adapt to new science and changing priorities. Changing galleries
will keep the Planetarium, Science Museum and Technology Center current and will
continually refresh its appeal to repeat visitors. To portray the excitement of this interactive
type of learning and exhibitry, we are presenting two concepts of exhibit experience.
The study of the earth’s geology tells us about our planet’s history and helps us find energy
resources. Buried deep in the ocean floor and beneath the surface on land, microfossils
are the skeletal remains of tiny, single-celled organisms that give clues to the
biological past and to likely deposits of oil, gas, and coal. Visitors can enter a model of one
such organism (above), magnified a million times, to explore the fascinating variety of the
microscopic world and the way geologists and energy companies use this knowledge to
explore new resources. In the background (left) are real earth cores and clues to the messages
they contain about the past and our energy future, explored through multimedia.
In the background is the Planetarium itself, wrapped in a glowing LED display that shows
the earth in near real-time, based on satellite data from NASA, NOAA, and other research
Do you know what a wafer is? Did you know the largest wafer factory in the world is right here in Austin?
Today’s expanding technological world is enabled by microscopic, integrated circuits in
silicon wafers made from sand. This exhibit area shows the manufacturing process—one
of Texas’ major high-tech industries—as well as the science behind the integrated circuit
itself. It also illustrates specialized technologies like the Texas Instruments’ DLP chip that
places up to millions of tiny mirrors onto an integrated circuit to manipulate light in the
most advanced video projectors in the world. This and other innovations give Texas a leading
edge in global technology, and provide young Texans with literally hundreds of interesting