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Art, Science and Graphics Collide at Hayden Planetarium


Popular Cosmic Collisions Space Show Delivers Real-Time Visualization and Ultra-High Resolution Projection with NVIDIA Quadro® Solutions

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Kelly Dove
NVIDIA Corporation
(512) 401-4514


Visitors watching Cosmic Collisions
© D. Finnin/AMNH
In the violent aftermath of a collision four-and-a-half billion years ago between a young Earth and a Mars-sized wandering body, the remaining debris circling Earth quickly starts to coalesce into our Moon.
© American Museum of Natural History
Streams of charged particles from the fiery surface of the Sun race toward Earth at over a million miles an hour in this image taken by NASA satellites.
© American Museum of Natural History/NASA

SANTA CLARA—May 7, 2007— Billions of years ago, explosive collisions in the cosmos shaped our solar system, forever changing the course of life on Earth. Cosmic Collisions, the breathtaking Space Show at the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History's Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City, is an immersive theater experience that uses scientific simulations and visualizations to take visitors on a virtual trip through space and time. Narrated by award-winning actor, director and producer Robert Redford, Cosmic Collisions depicts the explosive encounters between heavenly bodies that shaped the universe and explores the effects of those collisions in the present and the future.

Behind the scenes, the planetarium's creative team relies on NVIDIA Quadro solutions with G-Sync option boards to create, in real time, images for the Cosmic Collisions show from extremely large datasets of raw scientific information. Additionally, Quadro graphics drive the planetarium's multi-channel projection system, which simultaneously plays back seven pre-rendered movies-one for each of the planetarium's projectors-in perfect synchronization, covering the theater's 100-foot-diameter dome with what appears to be a single, seamless image.

Unlike a feature film, the sole purpose of which is to entertain, a space show is first and foremost a scientific endeavor, requiring the planetarium to weave data from various simulation and visualization processes into an accurate and true-to-life presentation. The planetarium staff views the rendered content in real time without compression, which allows them to look at renders in an artifact-free state and make content decisions quickly. This ability to conduct "digital dailies" with the NVIDIA Quadro hardware allows for experimentation, validation and speedy implementation of production decisions.

"We wanted a computer system that could immerse the audience in content that has a Hollywood-style look, but it is important to remember that our imagery is driven by real science through simulation and visualization," says Benjy Bernhardt, director of Rose Center engineering. "And, we wanted it to play in a theater that supports Broadway-style theatrics. The NVIDIA G-Sync cards are one of the few options available for our current, seven-channel, synchronized dailies."

With the NVIDIA solutions the group was able to put together a system that is as fast as anything out there, allowing the crew to experiment and revitalize the planetarium experience. And to do it all in a much smaller physical space, at a lower cost and heat and power load, but with far better performance. "I'm not just talking about 'gee whiz, look how fast we can fly through the data,'" says Bernhardt. "Rather, it enables us to get past just making things work so we can concentrate on the conceptual stuff beyond that, so we can ask ourselves, 'what if we could do this or that?' We needed a platform that is stable, modern and has forward growth. That's what we have with the NVIDIA-based system."

For more details about the Cosmic Collisions Space Show at the Hayden Planetarium, part of the American Museum of Natural History's Rose Center for Earth and Space, visit

For more information about the entire series of NVIDIA professional Quadro solutions, please visit


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