Science on a Sphere

Using high-speed computers, multiple projectors and advanced imaging techniques, Science on a Sphere® creates an image of the planet in 3-D. Imagine looking back at the Earth from outer space—that’s The Sphere!

Historic and real-time information can be graphically displayed on The Sphere, clearly demonstrating important environmental issues on a global scale—e.g., climate change, ocean currents, weather patterns, distribution of human populations and their influences on nature.

Learn about the ocean, our Earth, and the planets beyond!UMD-SOS

Check our schedule for times

Sphere Presentations for General Audience

Solar System, Part I – The Rocky Planets


Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, the first four planets closest to the Sun are all displayed in brilliant, visual detail. As we take a tour of these “rocky” planets, so called because they consist of silicate rock and metal, we discover why physical differences among the planets makes them all so visually different. Visitors will also learn why the conditions on Earth make it hospitable to life – including us!

Solar System, Part II – Gas Giants


Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are the “gas giants” in our solar system. These planets are different from rocky planets because they are tremendously large and made mostly of gases, like helium and hydrogen. We will visit the gas giants and some of their more interesting moons. Pluto will be the last stop on our tour, and we will help explain why Pluto is no longer considered a planet!



The ocean is tremendously important to our planet in terms of sustaining life. We will take a tour of the Earth’s ocean (it will be clear that there is, in fact, only one ocean!) to understand how it helps create weather, transport materials and nutrients, and provides sustenance for humans.

Dynamic Earth


The surface of the Earth is dynamic and constantly moving. Through fossils and geological evidence, we have been able to track the movements of the tectonic plates. The continents are part of these plates, and their movements have produced major changes both in the past and during the present day. Even though we are not usually aware of the plates moving beneath us, this motion can contribute to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis.

Weather and Climate


Energy, in the form of light and heat, is transferred from the Sun and blankets the globe. As this energy moves and interacts with other physical forces in the atmosphere, our weather and climate are created. Using modern technologies we can now look at historic climate and see how our climate today varies from what we might have seen in the past.


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Water is vital to life—over three-quarters of the human body is water. Photosynthesis in the ocean provides between 50–80 percent of the oxygen we use to breathe. So where does water come from, and why is it so necessary for living things? We will track the movement of water, in its various states, through the environment as a part of the water cycle.  We will also demonstrate the importance of conserving this natural resource.

Sun, Light and Life


The Sun plays a critical role in providing energy for all living things on Earth. We will take a close-up look at the Sun, explaining how electromagnetic energy (visible light) from the Sun helps plants grow which, in turn, feed animals and ultimately humans. Lastly, we will look at ways to harness solar energy, helping provide sustainable energy for all living things on our planet.

Climate Change

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To understand what is happening to the Earth we must understand the major components that make up the Earth. We will view the five distinctly different “spheres,” representing air, water, rock, ice and life, which make up the Earth we know. The different spheres are atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, cryosphere and biosphere. We will also view the daily and yearly changes humans are making to our climate. Some potential consequences of climate change will be discussed but, most importantly, the audience will be given everyday solutions they can fit into their busy lives.

Population Growth


Human population is growing exponentially, and it is predicted to reach nine billion individuals by 2050. As population continues to grow, new land must be developed for housing, commerce and agriculture. Coastal areas are among the most densely populated, but populations will move inland as the coastlines become full. As we make changes to the landscape around us, how are we affecting other areas on the planet? Is there a way that human population growth can occur sustainably?



Life on the Earth is not evenly distributed. The ocean contains a vast array of biological diversity, but marine organisms are mostly found in specific areas. Visitors will learn about productive zones of the ocean including coral reefs, hydrothermal vents, and upwelling areas. Tracking chlorophyll, temperature, and currents, it becomes possible to identify why some areas of the ocean are biological deserts, and others are veritable buffets.

Elements of our Unique Earth


Four distinctive and yet inextricably linked elements – earth, fire, water and wind – interact to provide humans with the place that we call home. We live in relative comfort because of the balanced system created by their constant moving and mingling. Humans alter this system in ways that we can observe but do not yet fully understand. This presentation gives a new perspective on the elements that make earth hospitable enough to be our home planet.

Animal Tracking & Migration


Scientists use satellite tags to track animal movement throughout the ocean. By tagging these animals we are given a glimpse into their migration paths and behavior. Knowing more about their behavior patterns close to shore or where animals over-winter helps scientists make more informed management decisions about those particular species. Come watch with us as we trace the journeys of sharks, turtles and seals.

Primary Productivity


Sunlight is used by living things to create food. This transfer of light energy into chemical energy, and specifically carbohydrates, occurs through photosynthesis. All the “food” that is created is then used either by the plants (and producers) or by consumers as the energy is passed through the food web. Together we can track the primary production both on land and in the ocean and understand how important the role of each organism is in the food web.

Steward Sphere Presentations (Child Themed Presentations)

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When viewed from space, we can see that Earth is mostly water, yet most of it is not available for human consumption. Water, in all of its forms, is an essential resource for living things. We will follow the movement of water and learn why the water we depend on every day is only a tiny fraction of all the water available on the Earth.

Moving Earth


Ever wondered why South America and Africa look like two puzzle pieces that should fit together? Well, you’re right, because millions of years ago, they did! Even though we usually can’t tell, the ground we live on is constantly moving. Take a journey with The Sphere to discover how and why the surface of the Earth moves.

Life on Earth


Life is possible on Earth because of our Sun. The Sun provides us with heat and energy that plants can turn into sugars through photosynthesis. Plants in turn provide their energy to animals and decomposers through food webs. Let’s remember how important the Sun is in making our food the next time we are hungry!

Animal Tracking


We know that most animals move, especially if they are hungry or looking for a new place to live. Come join us as we use data from satellites to follow the path of seals, turtles, and sharks–oh my!

Solar System Tour


You probably know all your planets, right? Well, we can help you learn more. You’ll be able to figure out how old you would be on Venus or how much you would weigh on Saturn. Let’s explore our solar system together!

Weather Tracking


Want to be a weather bug? We can help! In real time, we can track the weather across the globe. Together, let’s investigate the role of the ocean in creating large scale weather patterns like hurricanes and tsunamis.

Population on Earth


For a long time the Earth was relatively unpopulated. Areas that people live in today would have been too cold, impossible to traverse, or wouldn’t have produced food. What changed? How did we go from a few million to over 6.5 billion people on the planet? How long did it take? Join us to answer these questions and more!

It’s Elemental

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How do these four elements – earth, fire, water and wind – help provide a stable yet ever-changing home for us?   We are able to call almost every part of Earth home and move all around our planet because of the interactions of these elements.  Come explore the connections among earth, fire, water and wind!


Kid’s Rule the Climate!

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We all hear about “climate change” in school but what does it really mean?  Together we will become experts in understanding our atmosphere and the greenhouse effect.  We will also see daily and yearly changes that humans are making to our climate. Knowledge is power so we will provide you 10 easy solutions so you – yes, you – can help take control of climate change!