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Now playing: Dark Universe, a new planetarium show at the California Academy of Sciences

March 24, 2014 Attraction No Comments Email Email

The California Academy of Sciences is pleased to present its newest planetarium space show, Dark Universe.

morefuninthephilippineFeaturing exquisite renderings of enigmatic cosmic phenomena, seminal scientific instruments, and spectacular scenes in deep space, Dark Universe, developed by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City, in collaboration with the Academy and GOTO Inc., celebrates the pivotal discoveries that have led us to greater knowledge of the structure and history of the Universe and our place in it—and to new frontiers for exploration. First premiered at AMNH in November 2013,Dark Universe whisks audiences out of the Milky Way galaxy, drops them alongside a parachute descending through Jupiter’s atmosphere, and brings them all the way to the cosmic microwave background while revealing the breakthroughs that have led astronomers to confront two great cosmic mysteries: dark matter and dark energy. Dark Universe will play daily in the Academy’s Morrison Planetarium through October 9, 2014. To view a show trailer, visit

“The Academy strives to bring the finest immersive content to our audiences,” said Ryan Wyatt, Director of Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization at the Academy. “Dark Universe knits cutting-edge cosmological visualizations into a complex and compelling narrative. It breaks new ground in helping viewers understand the origin and evolution of the Universe, and I believe that audiences will leave the show inspired by a science-driven but deeply affecting perspective on humanity’s place in the cosmos.”

Created by an award-winning team that includes astrophysicists and science visualization experts, Dark Universe is an immersive theater experience based on authentic data from NASA and European Space Agency missions, ground-based telescopes, supercomputer simulations, and research conducted at institutions around the globe. It begins with a scene millions of light years away from Earth. After flying to our own Milky Way galaxy, viewers arrive at California’s Mount Wilson Observatory, where Edwin Hubble’s discovery that the Universe is expanding first pointed to the Big Bang. That initial discovery, and ever more sensitive instruments on the ground and in space, led to other breakthroughs that have given astronomers an increasingly detailed and precise picture of how our Universe formed and evolved.

But these revelations have also uncovered intriguing new mysteries. What is the so-called dark energy accelerating cosmic expansion? What is the invisible dark matter underlying galaxies that, together with dark energy, accounts for at least 95 percent of the Universe’s total energy and mass? What lies beyond our cosmic horizon? Dark Universe explores this new age of cosmic discovery.

Dark Universe is curated by Dr. Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, a curator in the Department of Astrophysics and Division of Physical Sciences at AMNH who studies the formation and evolution of planets, stars, and galaxies.

“This Space Show is not just about what we know about the Universe but how we know it so well,” said Mac Low. “The major accomplishment of the last decade in cosmology has been going from rather general knowledge about the Universe to knowing its properties to within a few percent. The astonishing result is that the Universe has turned out to be a very odd place, like nothing anybody ever expected.”

Narrating the new planetarium show is Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, prolific science communicator, and the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at AMNH. Dr. Tyson is working on a 21st-century reboot of Carl Sagan’s landmark television series COSMOS, set to air on FOX in spring 2014.Dark Universe is directed by Carter Emmart, the director of astrovisualization at AMNH and one of the original team members of the NASA-funded Digital Galaxy Project, now known as the Digital Universe, which helped redefine how planetarium theaters present science to the public through immersive data visualization. The show was written by best-selling Bay Area science writer Timothy Ferris and scored by composer Robert Miller.

Dark Universe was developed by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (, in collaboration with the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, and GOTO Inc., Tokyo, Japan. Dark matter visualizations were developed by the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University. Made possible through the generous sponsorship of Accenture, and proudly supported by Con Edison.

The California Academy of Sciences is home to an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and research and education programs, which engage people of all ages and backgrounds on two of the most important topics of our time: life and its sustainability. Hours are 9:30 am – 5:00 pm Monday – Saturday, and 11:00 am – 5:00 pm on Sunday. Visit or call (415) 379-8000 for admission prices and directions. 

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