June 9, 1983 – October 1, 1997

National Air and Space Museum
Independence Avenue and 6th Street, SW
Washington, DC

Stars, Gallery 111, 1st Floor, East Wing Floor Plan

This gallery demonstrates what we have learned about radiant energy from the sun and other stars through the use of space astronomy satellites. Featured is a "walk-through" sun showing its structure and internal source of thermonuclear energy. Also on view are satellites, a telescope used to learn about the stars, a computer-operated fusion game, and a full-color view of several galaxies. A model of an arch from Stonehenge forms the exhibition entrance.

Sophisticated special effects and high-tech exhibits -- including computers and the latest in video disc technology -- aid visitors in understanding the complex information associated with the study of the stars. Highlights include:

  • Solar instruments: Orbiting Solar Observatory 1, Solrad, Apollo telescope mount
  • Stellar instruments: Uhuru, International Ultraviolet Explorer, Copernicus, IRAS, Hubble Space Telescope (1-to-5 scale model)
  • Interactive experiences: Fusion Game, Birthday Star, IUE
  • Films: Powers of Ten, Telescopes of Today and Tomorrow, Where the Galaxies Are

Additions include: (no opening date) IRAS: a Telescope in a Bottle, a full-scale replica of an Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), a space-based telescope that detects infrared or heat radiation from distant objects in the cosmos. The IRAS model is 12 feet long and 11 feet wide with its solar panels extended. This model was built from back-up and leftover parts of the original satellite and from new components. The original IRAS was launched in 1983 and orbited the Earth for 10 months, discovering a quarter-million sources of infrared radiation, including hundreds of stars, a new comet, and 10,000 galaxies never seen before. To aid in detecting distant or weak sources of heat radiation, the IRAS telescope was encased in a special liquid helium cooling system to keep the instrument as cold as possible. Theoretically, the telescope's detectors were so sensitive that they could sense the heat from a candle on the moon.