Museum Boerhaave drops visitor into black hole

21 March 2024

In the temporary exhibition Dichterbij het Zwarte Gat (Closer to the Black Hole), Museum Boerhaave in Leiden shows the wonderful world of the black hole. From the earliest ideas about extremely distorted space and time to the first photograph of a black hole.

On March 20, at the Rijksmuseum in Leiden, the creator of the first photograph of a black hole in space, Nijmegen astronomer Heino Falcke opened the exhibition on black holes and their research. The exhibition introduces visitors to black holes in many ways, how they were conceived and discovered and by whom.

The exhibit shows objects related to the research, from Roger Penrose’s notes to Albert Einstein’s fountain pen, with which he developed his 1919 general theory of relativity. The speech computer of theorist Steven Hawking is also on display.

Visitors can experience falling into a black hole lying down under a large screen, or see spacetime distorted near a black hole in a special projection room. Like a laughing mirror in which the viewer can see his own backside. Elsewhere, you can see an original engraving by graphic artist Escher, who in his own way also plays with distorted perspectives on reality.

The exhibition full of objects and explanations (bilingual in Dutch and English) also features young researchers on monitors, who talk about their own work on the first ever black hole photograph. That photo went global in April 2017 and is also the poignant starting point of the exhibition here.

Further along are the computer disks that hold all the data from the eight radio telescopes that made it possible to create this image.

The exhibition Closer to the Black Hole was created on the initiative of the Dutch Black Hole Consortium, a broad coalition within the framework of the National Science Agenda of research institutions in astronomy and space research, together with physicists and also science museums such as Boerhaave.

The exhibition also focuses on gravitational waves and the initiative to build the new Einstein Telescope for them, possibly in the border region in South Limburg, a project in which Nikhef is also heavily involved.

Dichterbij het Zwarte Gat, Rijksmuseum Boerhaave, Lange Sint Agnietenstraat 10, Leiden. Inbegrepen bij de entree voor het hele museum.