Out of this World

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Oberhausen Gasometer, 2 April – 30 December, 2010. Project of the European Capital of Culture Ruhr.2010.

In the amazing big Gasometer in the German city of Oberhausen, the exhibition ‘Out of this World – Wonders of the Solar System’ is currently taking place. The exhibition sheds a light on the world beyond this world, with particular attention for the effort of mankind to find out more about it. As the Gasometer is enormously big and dark, one really feels like being in outer space, which sets a great contextual atmosphere for the exhibition. Particularly spectacular is the enormous artificial moon hanging down from the roof of the 126 meters high gasometer. It’s said to be the biggest moon on earth, and honestly, I indeed can’t imagine another fake moon to be bigger.

The exhibition ‘Out of this World’ takes its visitors off on a journey into the cosmos. It shows our solar system as a huge process of growth and decay. Spectacular reproductions of the planetary system, extraordinary images of the sun, of the planets and their moons, precious historical instruments and the most modern technology of space research graphically present to us the drama of the birth and development of our solar system – up to its end. The exhibition ‘Out of this World’ combines natural science, cultural history and artistic points of view. In the spirit of the ‘International Year of Astronomy 2009’, ‘Out of this World’ invites visitors to marvel, wonder and reflect – this exhibition offers us a cosmic experience inside the unique industrial cathedral that is the Oberhausen Gasometer.”

The exhibition starts in the area below the former gas-pressure disc with a space-filling scene: the sun and its planets hover there as if on a disc in a 68 metre-wide room. Large format images, obtained during the latest American and European space missions, show our solar system, its development and its wonderful multiformity. On the gas-pressure disc, cult relicts, historical telescopes, measuring instruments, astronomical charts and old globes – and beside them the most modern instruments of space research are to be found. Here it becomes clear how findings concerning cosmic happenings always made progress when new observation technologies revolutionised the gaze into the depth of the macrocosm and the microcosm. On the basis of the exhibits, it is, moreover, shown how the ideas about the origins and the development of the solar system changed from the myths of primitive peoples up to our scientific age.

Finally, the arena provides a unique experience of space over which the roof extends at a height of 100 metres. As a gigantic sculpture here the largest moon on Earth, with a diameter of 25 metres, is shown. The installation passes through, with a soft background music, all of the phases of the moon from new moon to full moon. The romantic character of this moon experience supplements the scientific part of the exhibition in a moving way. The exhibition ‘Out of This World – Wonders of the Solar System’ is jointly organised by DLR (German Aerospace Center) and Gasometer Oberhausen GmbH to mark the International Year of Astronomy 2009. It offers unique items on loan from important international space companies as well as museums of technology, cultural history and art. Beyond the exposition the Gasometer itself provides a great view at the Ruhr Area’s industrial heritage and is worth paying a visit.