Planet-Finding Transit Simulation Exhibits
The Space Science Institute (SSI), of Boulder, Colorado, in collaboration with the SETI Institute and the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS) Exhibits Department designed a Kepler Planet-Finding Exhibit simulation. The basic concept consists of a tabletop orrery (model of a solar system) in which visitors observe transits of planets across a model star (a light source) and see the drop in brightness on photometer displays. All effects are exaggerated for easy understanding, and accompanying signage clarifies the incredible real-life sensitivity of the Kepler detector, the fact that Kepler is searching for Earth-size planets around other stars, as well as the significance and relevance of Kepler in the overall theme of NASA's Astronomical Search for Origins and Planetary Systems. LHS features this Kepler Exhibit in their New Ideas Lab, an area dedicated to capturing the excitement of new breakthroughs in science and active scientific research through open-ended interactive exhibits, demonstrations, and facilitated activities. Exhibit designs are available for replication.
The Kepler Planet-Finding Exhibit forms an integral part of the larger planned exhibit, Alien Earths, produced by the SSI, and a consortium of NASA Origins Missions, the SI and with major funding from the National Science Foundation. The Alien Earths exhibit premiered in Feb. 2005 at LHS and is touring the country at science centers, coordinated by the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) thus further leveraging the impact of the Kepler Planet-Finding Exhibit.
Kepler has developed a Lego Orrery LEGO version of the transiting planet simulation exhibit for facilitating demonstrations at workshops, conferences, and in classrooms.
Impact: We expect the Kepler Planet-Finding Exhibit to reach over 100,000 people visiting the Alien Earths exhibit at the venues contracted by the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC).
Evaluation: Evaluation for exhibits is done by SSI in concert with the Kepler LHS Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA) team. Front-end, formative, and summative evaluations were done by SSI, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and the LHS Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA) team.