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Press Box





Discover the secrets of Imperial Chinese Astronomy in the new interactive exhibit Dragon Skies: Astronomy of Imperial China

Opening on October 1, 2005 at Museum of Discovery and Science

Fort Lauderdale, September 26, 2005 – An intriguing interactive adventure through the once highly-guarded world of ancient China's Royal Astronomers is set to open on October 1, 2005 at the Museum of Discovery and Science as part of a nationwide tour covering seven U.S. cities. The exhibit is sponsored locally by Rand Eye Institute.

Dragon Skies: Astronomy of Imperial China, a joint venture between Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, California, the National Science Foundation and the People's Republic of China, was developed to enlighten the general public about China's early contributions to the science of astronomy which today remain largely unknown to the general public. The exhibit incorporates many exciting, hands-on activities as well as authentic astronomical artifacts on loan from the Nanjing Museum to tell the 5,000-year-old story of ancient China's astronomical achievements. These include some of the earliest records of solar and lunar eclipses, Halley's Comet and the supernova explosion in 1054 A.D., the remnant of which is the Crab Nebula. "This exhibit of rare and beautiful Chinese artifacts will give visitors a glimpse of the secrets of Imperial Chinese Astronomy," said Kim Cavendish, Museum President and CEO.

Dragon Skies showcases 31 artifacts—some of the world's most ancient astronomical tools— alongside 13 specially commissioned interactive learning stations. These stations bring the purpose and function of the artifacts to life, enabling visitors to test the principles of these ingenious devices. Some of the interactive highlights, particularly well suited for families with children, include:

  • Star Hunt: Find the stars, measure their positions, and plot a constellation using a simplified version of an armillary sphere (an ancient astronomical tool).

  • The Sky Inside-Out: From two different vantage points of a celestial globe, view the night sky as it appeared to Chinese astronomers.

  • Match Made in Heaven: See if you can match a celestial event, such as an eclipse or a comet, to its ancient description.

  • Spheres At-Your-Fingers: Interactive models of an armillary sphere and celestial globe are available for hands-on exploration.

  • Stopwater Clock: Use an ancient method to time an event.

  • By the Light of the Sun: Learn how a sundial works and see if you can tell the time of day.

  • Video Introductory Panels: Activate three dynamic videos of the Royal Astronomer who will teach you of the secrets of Imperial Chinese astronomy.

  • Ask A Bone: Ask your own very important question and interpret the cracks in an oracle bone to find the answer.

  • Wheel of Misfortune: Spin the wheel to find out what misfortunes Chinese astronomers thought comets foretold.

Astronomical observations were of fundamental importance to Imperial Chinese culture because ancient emperors relied on accurate astronomy, particularly the prediction of celestial events, to prove their divine right to rule and their right to the title "the Son of Heaven." Also, China's agrarian society depended on forecasts of seasonal changes and an accurate calendar to guide agricultural activities. As a result, China's Royal Astronomers kept thorough and systematic records of their observations of the heavens, some of which date back over 4,000 years. In addition to such detailed records, the Chinese developed highly sophisticated astronomical tools. Visitors to Dragon Skies will have the opportunity to view ancient artifacts such as:

  • Equatorial Armillary Sphere (2/3 sized replica)
    Built in 1439 CE, this armillary sphere, used to measure the positions of stars, is decorated with four elegant dragons.

  • Suzhou Star Chart Carved on Stone
    Created in 1193 CE, this star chart was used to tutor a young emperor. It shows over 1,400 stars, the ecliptic, the celestial equator, and the Milky Way.

  • Chinese & Western Star Chart
    This Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE) print from a carved wood star map shows the divisions of the sky in Imperial China.

  • Star Chart on Fan
    Decorated with a star chart and covered with gold powder, this delicate fan was used in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE).

  • Bronze Mirror
    This mirror, created in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE), is decorated with astronomical images.

  • Four Gods Roof Tiles
    These decorative ornaments, hung on the roofs of ancient buildings in the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), show the four animal constellations representing north, south, east and west.

  • Record Carved on Oracle Bone
    China's earliest recordings of astronomical events were found on oracle bones, used during the Shang Dynasty (1700-1027 BCE) for divination. This ox bone replica contains a recording of a lunar eclipse.

  • Record Carved on Tortoise Shell
    This replica of a 3,000-year old tortoise shell contains one of the earliest recordings of a solar eclipse.

  • Outflow Water Clock
    This is an example of the earliest form of water clock used in China. It was used in the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 9 CE).

  • Bronze Gnomon
    This small, portable gnomon (shadow calendar), used in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 CE), was used to measure the changes in the length of the sun’s shadow and determine the length of a year.

  • Equatorial Sundial
    This Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE) sundial is an example of a common Chinese sundial.

  • Moon Dial
    By observing the shadow of the moon on this Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 CE) moon dial, people could keep time during the night.

  • Su Song's Water Clock Tower
    Completed in 1092 CE, this intricate water-powered clock combined astronomical observation and timekeeping, including an armillary sphere, a celestial globe, and a complicated series of ceramic figures, which announced the time. This artifact is a working model.

  • Oracle Bones
    These eight fragments of oracle bones were used during the Shang Dynasty (1700-1027 BCE) to divine the future. The words on them relate to autumn, spring, winter, sun, wind, cloud, mist, and rain.

Dragon Skies: Astronomy of Imperial China will be open from October 1, 2005 through January 2, 2006. More detailed exhibit information, along with views of artifacts and replicas, can be seen at

PRESS ONLY Friday, September 30, 2005 at 10 a.m.

  • Sneak Peek of Dragon Skies: Astronomy of Imperial China exhibit.

  • Informative tour of new exhibit.
    Interviews with staff: Museum of Discovery and Science and Chabot Space & Science Center's Exhibit Coordinator.

Dragon Skies: Astronomy of Imperial China Opening Weekend October 1, 2005

Chinese Dragon and Lion Dances
Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m.
John Wai and students from the John Wai Kung Fu Academy in Plantation will perform Chinese dragon and lion dances. Visitors can see colorfully ornamented loins that are animated by kung fu practitioners and a 60-foot, multicolored dragon, which is brought to life by nine people. The performers are accompanied by musicians beating on a drum, gong and cymbals.

Mars, Halloween and the Seven Sinister Sisters with Jack Horkheimer
Saturday, October 1 at 1:30 p.m.
Join Jack Horkheimer, Executive Director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium and Creator, Writer and Host of Star Hustler/Star Gazer, which is seen on more than 200 PBS stations nationwide, for a lesson in naked-eye astronomy entitled Mars, Halloween and the Seven Sinister Sisters. Peer into the night sky and prepare yourself for what you will see over the Halloween weekend when Mars will be super close to Earth and at its brightest for unaided viewing.

View Sun Spots and Solar Flares
October 1 & 2, 2005 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The Buehler Planetarium and Observatory of Broward Community College will display solar observing telescopes for visitors to experience a safe view of sunspots caused by magnetic storms on the surface of the Sun and maybe even solar flares. Join Planetarium staff and explore the Sun's surface—weather permitting.

Cupping and Acutonics Therapy Demonstrations with Dr. Ynge Ljung
October 1 & 2, 15 & 16, 2005 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Dr. Ynge Ljung of Between Heaven and Earth Health Center combines ancient Chinese medicine with modern technology to deal with problems of health and stress. Dr. Ynge will be demonstrating Cupping as well as Acutonics (tuning fork) Therapy.

STARLAB Mini-Planetarium Shows
October 4 through November 11, 2005
Explore ancient Chinese astronomy and the myths and legends that came from their study of the night sky in the Museum's newest exhibit, Dragon Skies: Astronomy of Imperial China. After you explore the new exhibit, let us take you back in time to a place where dragons and warriors ruled the sky. Step inside our portable planetarium for a far out and "Far East" presentation.
Shows at 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on the following dates:
Tuesday, October 4 - Thursday, October 6 - Friday, October 7 - Thursday, October 13
Friday, October 21 - Friday, November 11


The mission of the Museum of Discovery and Science is to provide experiential pathways to lifelong learning in science for children and adults through exhibits, programs and films. Founded in 1976 as The Discovery Center, the nonprofit facility serves approximately 400,000 visitors each year. Major operational support for the Museum is provided through generous support by Leadership Guild members including: American Express, City Furniture, JM Family Enterprises, Inc., Sun-Sentinel and Wachovia.

The Museum is open seven days per week (365 days a year); Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. with extended IMAX® hours on Friday and Saturday evenings. General Admission prices are $14 for adults; $13 for seniors; $12 for children 2 to 12. Children under 2 are free. A General Admission Ticket includes admission to the Museum exhibits and one IMAX® film. The Museum of Discovery and Science is located downtown at 401 SW Second Street, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33312. For more information about the Museum, visitors should call 954.467.MODS (6637) or visit our web site.


The Blockbuster® IMAX®Theater owned and operated by the Museum of Discovery and Science, opened in 1992. The 300-seat theater is a showcase of state-of-the-art motion picture technology. The Blockbuster® IMAX®Theater features a 60 ft. x 80 ft. screen and a 15,000 watt digital sound system that delivers six discrete channels of clear sound through 42 speakers. The IMAX® projector’s 15,000 watt Xenon bulb projects images of unsurpassed brilliance and clarity onto the five-story-high screen. Both 2D and 3D films are shown in the theater. 3D films are viewed using electronic headsets. The IMAX® experience is an unparalleled fusion of sight and sound. For show times, visitors should call 954.463.IMAX (4629).

Media Contacts: Laura Nipe 954.713.0904 email
Theresa Waldron 954.713.0901 email

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Museum of Discovery and Science / Blockbuster IMAX Theater - 401 SW 2nd Street, Fort Lauderdale FL 33312. Phone 954-467-6637
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