New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science

Explore Asteroids and Comets at Incoming! at Museum Planetarium

July 03, 2018


Audiences at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science (NMMNHS) Planetarium will discover how asteroids and comets have collided with our planet, changing the course of life on Earth and shaping today’s world, in the California Academy of Sciences’ latest original planetarium show, Incoming!

From the comfort of a planetarium seat, viewers will embark on a dynamic journey on the trail of asteroids and comets, get an up close look at the advanced technologies that allow scientists to detect asteroids before they reach Earth, and visualize historic space events billions of years in the making—all within an immersive, all-­digital dome that brings the captivating story of our cosmic origins to life.

Narrated by George Takei, Incoming! explores the past, present, and future of our Solar System and the landmark discoveries scientists have made by sending spacecraft to visit tiny worlds.

“This show directly relates to several exhibits in the Museum of Natural History & Science,” says Jim Greenhouse, Space Science Director at the NMMNHS. “These include the temporary exhibition on the Dawn spacecraft’s mission to the asteroid belt, the display about Pluto next to the Planetarium’s entrance, and the part of the Walk Through Time called A Bad Day in the Cretaceous that describes the asteroid impact which ended the age of dinosaurs. Visitors can learn more about each of these topics in the Museum after being introduced to them in the Planetarium.”

The show opens with a lizard’s-­eye view of the Arizona desert. Sweeping views quickly reveal the kilometer-­wide Barringer Crater scar on Earth’s surface formed almost 50,000 years ago as the result of an asteroid vaporizing upon impact with our planet, devastating the local environment and changing our planetary landscape. This is one of nearly 200 impact craters around the world identified by scientists. Audiences will learn how another impact site provides valuable clues about the demise of the dinosaurs and how a far-­traveling visitor from space transformed life on Earth.

While these planet-­altering impacts began billions of years ago, small objects from space continue to enter our atmosphere all the time. High-­powered visuals will transport viewers back in time to experience landmark cosmic events, including the largest of these modern impacts, which occurred above Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013. At almost 20 meters in diameter, the Chelyabinsk meteor entered our atmosphere — sudden and undetected — with a burst of light brighter than the sun and created a shockwave that shattered windows and damaged buildings. Incoming! uses observed data to recreate the precise path of the meteor’s atmospheric entry, allowing audiences to ride along with the planetarium-­sized asteroid.

Based on current scientific and astronomical data, the show’s vivid visualizations are the result of tens of thousands of hours’ worth of work by the California Academy of Sciences’ in-­house Visualization Studio, one of the only museum-­based production studios in the country. This highly skilled team of animators, engineers, and production experts worked closely with dozens of science advisors and partners, translating complex data into an engaging and educational digital experience for viewers of all ages.

Throughout the show, cutting-­edge visualizations also allow viewers to tag along with robot explorers, zooming by rocky asteroids and icy comets, and even the dwarf planet Pluto. While astronauts have only traveled as far as our nearest neighbor in space, the moon, spacecraft continue to venture to mysterious worlds beyond to make landmark observations and collect valuable data about this final frontier.

Incoming! also gives audiences a closer look at the scientific advances that may allow us to find and track cosmic threats before they reach planet Earth. The show concludes with glowing nighttime views of Chile’s Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which, once completed, will survey the entire sky every few days, observing and detecting faint moving objects, including asteroids and other Near-­Earth Objects, with incredible sensitivity.

Incoming! will be a featured film in the Planetarium until March 2019. It joins other fascinating planetarium features in this schedule effective Saturday, June 30:

11 a.m.: The Little Star That Could

12 p.m.: Incoming!

2 p.m.: Enchanted Skies

3 p.m.: Earth, Moon, & Sun

4 p.m.: Black Holes

The planetarium is a currently a special value since it is included in admission to the traveling Da Vinci—The Genius exhibition until it closes at the museum. Tickets may also be purchased only for planetarium shows.


About the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science: Established in 1986, the mission of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is to preserve and interpret the distinctive natural and scientific heritage of our state through extraordinary collections, research, exhibits and programs designed to ignite a passion for lifelong learning. The NMMNHS offers exhibits, exhibitions, programs and workshops in Paleontology, Geoscience, Bioscience, Earth Science, Natural Science, Gemology, is the Southwest’s largest repository for dinosaur fossils, and includes a Planetarium and a DynaTheater. A division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, the Museum is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and new year’s day. 1801 Mountain Road NW, northeast of Historic Old Town Plaza, Albuquerque, NM 87104, (505) 841-2800.  Events, news releases and images about activities at the Museum of Natural History and Science and other in divisions of the Department of Cultural Affairs can be accessed at


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