The Evolving Universe

How was the universe created?
How has it changed over time?
How do we know?

Through amazing and rare photographs, visitors to The Evolving Universe will learn the answers to these questions and more. Travel through time and find out how Smithsonian scientists study the far reaches of space and the astronomical beginning of time.

We can never see the universe as it is right now, only how it was in the past.



In The Evolving Universe, visitors will journey from the here and now of Earth to beyond our galaxy, traveling back through time and out into space. The very nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, is four light years away. When we gaze at it in the sky, the light hitting our eyeballs left it four years ago, so we're seeing Alpha Centauri as it was in 2012. In this sense our telescopes are also time machines: the most distant galaxies we study are billions of light years away and we are seeing them as they were before the Earth was formed.

The Evolving Universe was developed by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the National Museum of Natural History where it was on view. The original exhibition was funded by The Windland Smith Rice Nature’s Best Photography Fund.

Exhibition specifications

Contents 27 full-color images
8 backlit Duratrans light boxes
11 text panels with images
24 sidebar panels
Supplemental Introductory video- 5' 19" (venue provides equipment)
Participation Fee $7,000, per 10-week booking period
Size 180 running feet
Category Science & Natural History
Security Moderate
Shipping Outgoing
SITES Contact Ed Liskey, 202.633.3142
Tour Through April 2017


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Tour itinerary

Opening Closing Host Institution Status
10/21/2011- 07/07/2013* National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC Booked
10/12/2013- 01/05/2014* Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, AZ Booked
01/25/2014- 04/06/2014 William F. Laman Public Library, North Little Rock, AR Booked
04/26/2014- 07/06/2014* Janelia Farm Research Campus, Ashburn, VA Booked
07/26/2014- 10/05/2014* Grapevine Convention and Visitor's Center, Grapevine, TX Booked
10/25/2014- 02/01/2015 South Florida Museum, Bradenton, FL Booked
05/23/2015- 07/05/2015* Science Central, Fort Wayne, IN Booked
08/08/2015- 09/13/2015* Science Central, Fort Wayne, IN Booked
02/02/2016- 04/30/2016* Guntersville Museum and Cultural Center, Guntersville, AL Booked
06/04/2016- 08/14/2016 Stauth Memorial Museum, Montezuma, KS Booked
09/08/2016- 09/18/2016* Utah State Fair, Salt Lake City, UT Booked
12/17/2016- 02/26/2017   REDUCED FEE:
Call for Availability
04/07/2017- 04/09/2017 Eons Expos, Edison, NJ Booked

*- Slot includes National Astronomy Day (normally early May & early October)

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Related publications

Smithsonian in YOUR Classroom
The Universe: an Introduction
Smithsonian in YOUR Classroom resources.

Beyond the Telescope:
Professional Development Series

MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network
(You control the telescope!)
Hot Questions in Science that Spring from Einstein’s Theories
Activity: Cardboard Tube Telescope
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Press release

Media only: Andrew Holik (202) 633-3122;
Media website:

Smithsonian Opens Exhibition about The Universe

The cosmos constantly changes. Stars are born, live out their lives, and die - sometimes calmly, sometimes explosively. Galaxies form, grow, and collide dramatically. A new exhibition and website developed by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, and circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, reveal the dynamic and evolving universe through breathtaking photographs and informative captions.

"The Evolving Universe" explores how the stars, galaxies and universe undergo the same stages as life on Earth: from birth, to maturity and, eventually, to death. This remarkable journey from present-day Earth to the far reaches of space and time will be on view at [your venue] from [date] through [date], and will then continue to travel on an exciting sixteen city tour through 2017.

A worldwide audience also can experience the exhibition through its website, located at All of the images featured in the museum gallery can be downloaded in high-resolution jpegs or PDFs formatted in poster size.

Visitors to the exhibition or website can choose one of two paths to explore the cosmos. They can begin close to home with our solar system and move outward to the farthest reaches of the universe. Or they can begin 13.7 billion years ago at the moment of the Big Bang and move forward in time to the present day. Along their journey they will learn how a variety of telescopes and instruments, many developed by SAO, reveal the fascinating history of the expanding universe.

All of the elements—the raw materials that make up everything in the universe, including the Earth and human bodies—are formed within stars and released into space when stars die. Images of stars at various life stages will join the compelling visuals and epic stories of supernovas, stellar nurseries, nebulae and galaxy clusters that reveal the fascinating history of the expanding universe.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for over 60 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, located on 10th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W. in Washington, D.C., welcomes more than 6 million visitors annually. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free. For more information about the museum, visit it at and on Facebook, Twitter (hash tag #nmnh), YouTube and Flickr or call (202) 633-1000, TTY (202) 633-5286.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College ObservSatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.


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» Exhibition Specifications

» Tour Itinerary

» Educational Resources

» Exhibition Prospectus

Click to enlarge the Antennae Galaxy. Click to enlarge the Centaurus A Galaxy.

If you like this exhibition, you might also like:

Suited for Space (Archives)

Earth from Space (Archives)

NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration



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