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Gateway Science Museum

Fall 2016

Great Balls of Fire: Comets, Asteroids, Meteors

Great Balls of Fire event poster

On display from October 1, 2016 through January 8, 2017.

The threat of a catastrophic impact from an asteroid or comet is a staple of popular culture. If there was a dinosaur killer in Earth’s past, is there a human killer in our future? What are the chances and how do we assess the risks? For that matter, what are asteroids, comets, and meteorites, and where do they come from?

While asteroids and comets are popular subjects for movies like Armageddon and Deep Impact, they are also playing their own starring roles in NASA research. In 2001, NASA’s NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft dramatically landed on the asteroid Eros. In 2005, NASA’s Deep Impact’s probe collided with Tempel 1, exploring beneath the comet’s surface. In 2007, NASA launched the Dawn spacecraft to the Main Asteroid Belt.

Great Balls of Fire: Comets, Asteroids, Meteors was developed by Space Science Institute’s (SSI's) National Center for Interactive Learning with funding from the National Science Foundation and NASA. The exhibit, divided into four areas: Origins, Asteroids, Comets, and Impacts, includes a variety of interactive, multimedia experiences. ranging from straightforward computer-based activities to a larger scale “pod” where visitors play the role of explorers-in-training.

Visit the SSI public website(opens in new window).

The Great Balls of Fire exhibit with different interactive stations

Two boys learn about asteroid encounters at the Great Balls of Fire exhibitChildren interact with the Great Balls of Fire exhibit