“How many planets are there with people like us looking up and wondering whether there are other planets with people like them?” asks Chuck Stout, curator for the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. Visitors to All the Cosmos a Canvas: Hubble Reveals our Beautiful Universe are likely to be asking that question—and many others.
All the photos in the exhibit were taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Launched in 1990 to an orbit 350 miles above Earth, Hubble has outlived its life expectancy, yet it continues to advance science with astounding pictures of the universe.
The exhibit, on display until mid-September, is nestled in a corner of the cavernous hangar of the museum. “The vibe we’re going for here is quiet, introspective, like the inside of the Denver Art Museum,” says Stout. “We wanted long sight lines so visitors could see different images from any vantage point.” The interpretive signage (in English and Spanish) for each image is minimal “to make this an exhibit about the visual aspects without burdening people with technical terms.”
The exhibit was designed and produced in-house to promote the museum’s mission—Stout wants visitors to understand the impact of aviation and aerospace on their lives, even if they never get on an airplane.
“It’s a challenge to make relevant something that’s orbiting 350 miles above your head and takes pictures that may be of interest only to businesses and astronomers,” says Stout. “How does that affect me, why should I care about that, and why should I think that spending money on space exploration is a good idea?
“Because NASA technology is ubiquitous. We have solar energy because of solar panels developed for spacecraft, microelectronics gave us computers; and that whole stream of technology makes it possible for us to have cordless drills and LED lights instead of heating up a wire until it glows.
“Our mission is to educate and inspire.” Stout hopes to inspire a diverse audience, including women, people of color, people who don’t speak English, people with disabilities, and people with different socio-economic backgrounds. He thinks of this exhibit as a place people can go to be transported, to think about something other than politics or Covid. “And I hope there’s that 10-year-old girl who looks up from her cellphone and says, ‘This is cool!’ and suddenly becomes more interested in math and science at school.”
Until 400 years ago, all humans knew about the universe came through observations with the naked eye. In 1610, Galileo’s telescope changed our perception of the skies. Earth-based observatories extended our knowledge, and now Hubble, above the turbulence of Earth’s atmosphere, gives us an undistorted window to the rest of the universe.
Want to see what Hubble is looking at right now? Visit spacetelescopelive.org.
Tickets may be pre-reserved for two-hour visits (walk-ins not taken at this time): 303-360-5360 x105. Learn more about the museum at wingsmuseum.org.
Photos for the Front Porch by Christie Gosch