Originally created 05/06/04

Center's exhibit beams extraterrestrial life to Earth



Ready or not, here they come.

In about 48 hours, aliens and objects from outer space will arrive in downtown Augusta, where they will spend the summer.

Fret not: These creatures will be contained by the National Science Center's Fort Discovery.

The Aliens: Worlds of Possibilities exhibit will open at 10 a.m. Saturday in the center's Knox Gallery, where it will remain until Labor Day.

"It teaches people how the search for intelligent life in the universe is being accomplished, how much work goes into it," said Todd Johnston, the touring exhibits manager for Pacific Science Center in Seattle, where the exhibit was developed in 1997 with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute.

The stop at Fort Discovery is the exhibit's first since it was scaled down from 10,000 to 6,000 square feet so it could be showcased in smaller museums, Mr. Johnston said. It features three towering, moving robotic creatures.

"They were designed by elementary students based on what they thought aliens might look like on different planets with different atmospheres," Mr. Johnston said.

Other features include 20 interactive stations, a meteorite, asteroid pieces, a rock from Mars, a step-on scale that shows weight on different planets, a model solar system, a children's play area and stations to demonstrate the minuscule chance of finding life elsewhere.

"I think people are going to be amazed at what they'll learn and how it relates to what we do here on Earth," said Kathi Dimmock, the marketing director for the science center.

There's also a replica of giant tube worms that were recently discovered living off bacteria near volcanic eruptions on the ocean floor - the only known animal to survive without oxygen or the sun, Mr. Johnston said.

"We know that what we originally thought to be necessities of life don't apply to each living thing," he said. "Because if life can flourish there with no sunlight or heat, then it's possible it can flourish in space or on other planets."

Other Worlds

WHAT: Aliens: Worlds of Possibilities exhibit

WHERE: National Science Center's Fort Discovery, 1 Seventh St.

WHEN: Opens at 10 a.m. Saturday and will remain until Labor Day

COST: Free with general admission to Fort Discovery, $8 for adults, $6 for ages 4-17, $6 for active military and seniors 65 and older, free for 3 and younger

INFORMATION: Call 821-0200 or www.nationalsciencecenter.org.

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or samantha.mckevie@augustachronicle.com.