Past temporary exhibitions

Crime and Punishment: Spectrum Reveals Secrets

Outside in front of the Old Observatory 27 April 2018–30 September 2018

An exploding star, a collision between two powerful neutron stars, a birth of a new solar system, a forger of mummies or paintings, an inexperienced criminal or a simple fracture—everything leaves a trace.

Some of these traces can be seen with the naked eye, while others can only be revealed using spectroscopy. The temporary exhibition in the front yard of the Old Observatory explains the nature of spectroscopy, how we encounter it in our daily lives and how it is used in astronomy, forensics, art and medicine. New exhibitions in other University of Tartu Museum buildings also follow the year’s topic of Crime and Punishment. In the museum’s main building in the historic cathedral you can visit the exhibition Crime and Punishment, which opened on 04 April 2018. In the University of Tartu Art Museum you can visit the exhibition Crime and Punishment: University Lock-up, which opens on 19 April 2018.

Astronomy before telescopes

From April 2017

From the beginning of time, humankind has looked up to the heavens in search of a greater meaning: what was the beginning and what will be the end, where have we come from and where are we going? If today these questions are at least in part answered by the telescopes, satellites and computers that measure the depths of the heavens in detail, then our forefathers had to use much simpler and creative means to study the heavens. Their conclusions ranged from magical to surprisingly accurate.

The knowledge gained from the heavens influenced cultures everywhere from the ancient Aztec civilisation to our Estonian ancestors. The exhibition, due to open in April 2017, will give a glimpse into the knowledge our ancient ancestors gathered and believed in. The exhibition and the accompanying programme will try to answer various questions, such as whether there really is a Man or a Rabbit on the Moon, why you should never look directly at the Sun, when is the best time to dig your horseradish and why is Ancient Aliens the most watched show on Viasat History.

Measuring the Skies: From Tartu to the End of the Universe

April 27, 2016 – September 30th, 2016

The universe we know has two important measures—time and space. Nowadays, most astronomers agree that the visible universe is 13.8 billion years old and its diameter is 28 billion parsecs or 91 billion light years. How do we know that? The science of astronomy is at least 5,000 years old. Astronomers have been able to use telescopes only for the last 400 years. Constellations, solstices and equinoxes, celestial coordinates, laws of planetary motion, approximate distances in the solar system were already known before the invention of the telescope. Increasingly larger, better and more precise telescopes enabled astronomers to map and measure more and more distant celestial bodies. Astrographs—special devices used for photographing the starry skies—used photography to catch more light on glass plates and brought us messages from even more distant objects. Astrophysicists found a way to extract the secrets of the celestial bodies’ movement and composition from their spectrum. From there, they moved on to what was invisible to the human eye. In 2016 they managed to catch gravitational waves that had been theoretically predicted a century ago, and now we will see the emergence of a new branch of astronomy. The Tartu Old Observatory and later the Tartu Observatory have participated in that voyage and the many discoveries it has brought for the past 200 years. Some of the most notable events have been commemorated at this exhibition.

It is certain that we know more of the universe than we did 400 years ago but a large part of the cosmos continues to hide its true nature from us. This means that our cosmic journey of discovery is far from over.

The exhibition is supported by Eesti Kultuurkapital.