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Visualizing The Hidden Cosmos | The Making Of "Dark Universe"

Though the Hayden Planetarium has been bringing visitors on visual voyages for years, its most recent space show celebrates both the known and unknown corners of life—from the matter that surrounds us to the anti-matter, or dark matter...

by The Creators Project
Apr 16 2014, 8:24pm

No matter how hard you squint your eyes, some things will always remain invisible to the naked eye: molecules, for instance, and the atoms that make them up, shall remain remain hidden, fundaments for us to put mathematically-supported faith in, until the day we figure out the atomic wearable eyepiece. No matter—anyone who visits the Natural History Museum's ongoing 3D space show, Dark Universe, will agree that the new documentary at the Hayden Planetarium is more than enough to keep you believing in the invisible worlds at the heart of everything. 

Though the Hayden Planetarium has been bringing visitors on visual voyages for years, its most recent space show celebrates both the known and unknown corners of life—from the matter that surrounds us to the anti-matter, or dark matter (matter that doesn't emit or absorb light, yet still has a gravitational force), which we're just beginning to understand. The program brings viewers from 3D-renderings of space crafts and the Milky Way, all the way into space 100 million light years away—the place where the Hubble Telescope first noticed that the universe is expanding due to dark matter. Dark Universe then offers viewers the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dive into the dark energy responsible for the cosmic growth of everything.

Using dark matter as its departure point, Dark Universe depicts the seemingly-ineffable: the un-visualizable. As director Carter Emmart notes, it celebrates the unknown, revealing "places to stand that we previously didn't know existed." Compiling swaths of real data from astrophysicists, astronomy observatories, engineers, and more, the creators of this extraterrestrial event used 3D animations to illuminate the dark energy which makes up the 95% of the universe that's invisible to the naked eye. "This is the real information," explains Emmart, "We are effectively taking you to places that perhaps we'll never be able to travel to." 

Not only are the visualizations of the Milky Way galaxy shown in Dark Universe the most accurate galactic 3D simulations ever produced, based on data from the National Astrophysical Observatory of Japan, the 25-minute epic even includes hyper-detailed renderings of the revolutionary background radiation data detected at Bell Labs. The animations and fact-based recreations allow audiences to experience ideas and places that were once seemingly-impossible to articulate, let alone visualize on a massive projector screen. 

Though its difficult enough to encapsulate the vastness of our own galaxy, Hayden Planetarium ups the ante by surging through countless galaxies across the universe, due to a hi-tech graphics program created in a collaboration with Tokyo-based projection specialists GOTO Inc and 3D-modelers at HiFi 3D. Using the GOTO Inc's unique HYBRID PLANETARIUM system that combines an opto-mechanical planetarium projector with a fulldome digital imaging system, the imagery was all smoothly unveiled on to Hayden's curved screen using a real-time manual control console.

The entire show took over four years to make, and the 3D-modelers explained how detailed the renderings of various satellites, observatories, and, well, space are in this project. HiFi founder, Szymon Weglarski, explained how the animations of the Galileo Mission spacecraft was extremely "heavy," meaning the density, size, and complexity of this CGI is rarely paralleled and the biggest model the company has ever built. The detail of Dark Universe is truly astounding, down to the nuts and bolts of every space probe.

To see inside this (literally) universe-expanding work of art and science, The Creators Project took a look behind-the-scenes of Dark Universe, and interviewed the production specialists at at GOTO Inc, the 3D-modelers at HiFi 3D, and even celeb-scientists Neil deGrasse Tyson and Modecai-Mark Mac Low.

This immersive vantage into the unprecedented paints an ever-expanding portrait of the universe that will send any star-gazer skyward. Watch the "Making Of Dark Universe" and enjoy stellar stills from the space show below. 

Visualization of Redshift

Dark matter visualized on the Hayden Planetarium's curved screen

Depiction of dark energy versus dark matter

Working 3D-model draft of satellite

The Milk Way

Galileo Telescope