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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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REVIEW: ‘Beyond the Light’ at Artechouse

Artechouse combines state of the art technology and images from the James Webb telescope in their astounding new immersive experience

When people look up at the night sky, their eyes squint to see little white dots, as if someone shook salt on a black cloth. 

Now, D.C. residents can visit Artechouse to see these wonders up close. One local exhibit showcases the wonders of outer space and the future of cosmic exploration. Artechouse’s “Beyond the Light” immersive experience will run from September 15 to December 13, where audiences can enjoy witnessing the wonders of the cosmos. 

Artechouse worked in collaboration with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the James Webb Space Telescope Mission team and Johns Hopkins University’s William H. Miller III Department of Physics and Astronomy to produce the “Beyond the Light” exhibit. Artechouse combined images from the James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope to create a cosmic exploration spectacle. 

artechouse second pic (within article)
NASA’s James Webb telescope captured the Tarantula Nebula: a never before seen region of young stars and stardust, stretching 340 light years across.

The immersive room uses a series of projectors and surround-sound speakers to transport audiences into the depths of our universe. Images and shapes dance across the walls, ceilings and floors, leaving audiences with a breathtaking view of the universe we call home. 

Guests are invited to take a cushion and sit on the floor as vibrant colors and inspiring music flood the space. For the next 30 minutes, they are taken on a roller coaster ride of childlike awe and curiosity. 

The exhibition starts by showing technological growth, featuring binary code, blueprints of space telescopes and the insides of the Hubble telescope’s panels. The transition pulls audiences through as if a Star Wars hyperdrive has been activated, then reveals images from the James Webb telescope. 

These include a photo of galaxy NGC 2525, which spirals around a black hole that looks like a glowing, pale-yellow center, and the Cosmic Cliffs of the Carina Nebula, which look like orange mountains against a night sky backdrop. 

For guests seeking a break from the main room, side wings of the experience touch upon global climate change. Screens show maps of the Earth and its “vital signs,” such as wind speed, thermal activity and more. The indicators on the floor tell guests where to stand, then if they reach out their hand, they can control the display. Commanding the screen to switch between the different maps of the Earth. 

Another section of the exhibit shows a black disk-shaped stand, where every 28 seconds, it will simulate a water droplet reverberating over its surface. This is a metaphor for the melting polar ice caps and glaciers. 

There is also a long hallway with stations that resemble old arcade games. You can move the knobs to pick out what look like VHS tapes that reveal more information about NASA, the James Webb telescope and space exploration in general. Behind the immersive room is a bar where guests can enjoy space themed cocktails and mocktails that come alive on the Artechouse app. 

The most compelling part of the Artechouse experience lies at the end of the presentation in the immersive room. 

At the end of the experience, the presentation circles back to Earth — showing an image of the planet as it rotates through a day. In terms of the grandeur of the universe, Earth is infinitesimally small. And yet, it is the most important place to everyone who walks through the Artechouse doors. 

This part of the exhibit fosters a sense of unity and belonging. For just a moment, all of our global, national and personal problems come to a halt as we marvel at something everyone shares in common — the big blue marble called home. 

We can all look up and see little dots in the night sky and share our universe of astounding colors.

This article was edited by Sara Winick, Patricia McGee and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis, Olivia Citarella and Charlie Mennuti.  

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