In 1997, a visitor from space crashed through a local resident’s garage roof, damaging his car. That visitor, a meteorite, is now a part of the revamped permanent exhibit at the Exhibit Museum of Natural History.
The exhibit, which opened last fall, allows visitors to get more up close and personal with the objects from space than the former museum exhibit.
“We try to serve everybody,” said Dan Madaj, the museum’s administrative associate.
“Our challenge is to make the information intellectually accessible and interesting for kids and adults – and I think we do well,” he added.
Where the museum’s weather display once stood, the astronomy exhibit is a colorful display of objects ranging from pieces of a meteorite from Mars to tektites and carbanado diamonds.
The centerpiece of the display is a 210-pound fragment of the meteorite that created the Canyon Diablo Crater in northern Arizona.
“One of the things that I think makes this exhibit most interesting is the Worden Meteorite,” Madaj said, referring to the 1997 meteorite crash, one of the 1,000 that happen along the Earth’s surface every year.
One of the goals of the exhibit is to distinguish between space dust, meteors, meteorites, meteoroids and other astronomical objects.
“We wanted to describe the difference between the remarkable variety of material in space,” Madaj said. “I think it was well received.”
Many of the objects are not in cases like the previous exhibit to encourage interaction with the display in more playful way.
“We’re a very kid-oriented museum, and kids are more interested in something they can touch than in something behind glass,” Madaj said.
But Madaj said accessibility of the displays must be balanced with the need for security, referring to an incident in 1998 when the smaller of the museum’s two meteorites was stolen.
When it was returned soon after, the museum traded the recovered meteorite for several smaller pieces that are currently in the display.
Astronomy will be a large feature in the museum over the next few months as it explores the planet Mars.
Featured exhibits will include photography of Mars displayed in the Mars Rotunda Exhibit and a presentation on possible types of research by the Michigan Mars Rover Team.