NASA Exhibit Lands in Bishop Museum’s Planetarium

The J. Watumull Planetarium gets a revamped lobby with new NASA exhibit


Honolulu, HI – Hawai‘i residents and visitors will soon discover how NASA explores our home planet from outer space at Bishop Museum’s J. Watumull Planetarium. The star-dome’s lobby is set to be refreshed with a NASA-themed interactive exhibit developed by Bishop Museum which will open to the public on May 28, 2016, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend.


“Everyone knows that NASA studies space; fewer people know that NASA also studies earth,” said Mike Shanahan, the museum’s director of visitor experience and planetarium. “Since the agency’s creation over 50 years ago, NASA has been a world leader in space-based studies of our home planet and continues to launch and operate an array of advanced earth-observing satellites. Our new exhibit will blend hands-on displays with content about NASA’s ‘missions to earth,’ as families and other audiences explore our home planet and our home isles in illuminating and engaging ways.”


Visitors can use a gravity well, four feet across, to see how an orbiting object’s speed increases as the object orbits closer and closer to earth. They will experiment with an infrared camera to see how NASA’s scientists draw different information viewing our planet in different wavelengths of light. Children will especially enjoy a simulation where they will control a robotic arm to attempt to repair a satellite. In the weather tracking area, visitors can create high and low pressure zones using spinning tops to simulate patterns of storms across the Pacific. There will also be an “augmented reality sand box,” where a projection of a topographic map will morph and change according to how the user moves the sand. The new exhibit also features models and back story on a wide array of NASA satellites and sheds light on ways NASA explores the different spheres of earth system science: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, geosphere and biosphere.


The new exhibit is funded by Bishop Museum’s 2012-2016 NASA award “Celestial Islands: Using NASA Earth Sciences to Reach Hawai‘i’s Educators and Students.” This award also funded the museum’s new planetarium show Eyes on Island Earth in early 2016. The show is a light-hearted program that uses an imagined dialog between a NASA satellite and a scientist in Hawai‘i to explore both Hawai‘i’s environment and NASA’s work in studying the planet. The program’s immersive video features breathtaking shots of earth from orbit and beautiful time lapse images of the Hawaiian Islands. Eyes on Island Earth also blends film segments with live sections. The live segments focus on how and why we see satellites in our local skies. Eyes on Island Earth also incorporates NOAA’s Science on a Sphere for its brief opening section, before proceeding into the dome.


In addition, the NASA Celestial Islands award resulted in a handful of other NASA-based initiatives spearheaded by Bishop Museum including:

    • NASA and Hawai‘i-themed Earth System Science curricula. The curricula was created by the museum’s NASA teacher team, and is now available at
    • Teacher’s workshops based on this NASA curricula across the State of Hawai‘i, which ran in February and March 2016.
    • A Digitalis portable digital planetarium dome that is taking the show Eyes on Island Earth to schools and science events across the state.




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