See the new moon at Bell Museum


“Museum of the Moon,” a seven-meter scientifically accurate replica of the moon, is on display now at the Bell Museum through June 9. (Mike Munzenrider/Review)

“Museum of the Moon” is lit from inside, making for stunning nighttime viewing. (courtesy of Luke Jerram)

A seven-meter replica of Earth’s closest neighbor now dominates Horizon Hall at the Bell Museum, making big what can sometimes seem distant and small.

“Museum of the Moon” opened May 21 at the Falcon Heights natural history museum and will run through June 9. 

The giant, balloon-like model of the moon is by British artist Luke Jerram and is part of the Bell Museum’s yearlong commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, “Year of Apollo: The Moon & Beyond.”

Standing near the gray orb on opening day as children listened to a reading of the kids classic “Goodnight Moon” — 10:30 a.m. daily storytimes are planned through the run of the installation — Andria Waclawski, senior communications manager for the Bell, said the exhibit is a unique opportunity.

Save for children who might one day step foot on the lunar landscape, she said, the museum’s installation might be the closest many of us will ever get to the moon.

Inflated and hung from the ceiling the day prior, the scientifically accurate model, said Waclawski, is a 1:500,000 scale replica of the moon; one centimeter on the museum’s sphere is equivalent to roughly five kilometers up on the real thing.

The installation’s image, created by the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, is based off imagery taken by a NASA satellite carrying the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, which was launched in 2010.

Waclawski pointed out that many early viewers had marveled at the crater-pocked dark side of the moon model. The far side of the real moon’s surface is forever shrouded in darkness when viewed from Earth, since the satellite rock is tidally locked with our planet and always shows us the same face.

Jerram created 10 moons, said Waclawski, which have been visited by some 3 million people in 25 countries, including Iceland, China, the United Kingdom and Australia. 

Made of a material similar to that of hot air balloons, Waclawski said the moon is internally lit and is stunning once the sun goes down — the Bell will do its best to keep the shades open during the installation’s run so the replica is viewable from outside off Larpenteur Avenue.

Moving from Minneapolis and reopening in 2018, the Bell Museum serves as a gateway to the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. It’s also home to the only dedicated planetarium in the state and bills itself as a place for astronomy and space learning, with frequent telescope observation events and free guides to help budding astronomers study the night skies.

“We are Minnesota’s astronomy classroom,” Denise Young, the museum’s executive director, said in a release about the installation. “What better way to marvel at the cosmos, celebrate what we have learned over the last 50 years, and imagine future explorations than to stand face to face with the moon?”

The museum has a number of events planned for the run of “Museum of the Moon.” On Wednesday, May 29, at 7 p.m., Bell Museum resident artist and poet Erin Sharkey will lead an open writing workshop to reflect on experiences on Earth’s moon and nature at night.

On Wednesday, June 5, at 7 p.m., University of Minnesota Dakota language specialist Neil McKay and indigenous linguist James Vukelich will lead a talk about what Dakota and Ojibwe people see when they look at the moon. 

Other happenings related to the guest speakers will run from 5 to 10 p.m. each Wednesday evening.

For more information about the events and others related to the installation, go to www.bellmuseum.umn.edu. The museum is located at 2088 Larpenteur Ave. in Falcon Heights.

 

–Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. 

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