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July 2, 2018

MSUFCU gifts $150,000 to MSU Museum for 'Science on a Sphere'

The MSU Museum was awarded $150,000 from the MSU Federal Credit Union, or MSUFCU, to be the first university museum to house a “Science on a Sphere.”

Developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Science on a Sphere, or SOS, displays the earth’s four quadrants in 3D and enables visitors to experience atmospheric events on earth. Additionally, SOS shows the galaxy’s other planets and moons in real-time.

The MSU Museum joins 150 other SOS locations around the world, including three locations in Michigan: the Detroit Zoological Society in Royal Oak, the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena and the Kalamazoo Valley Museum. The MSU Museum version of the sphere will be unique in that MSU faculty and students, as well as partnering K-12 classes, will develop and author new content for the system.

“For many years, I have been entranced by the SOS systems at museums and science centers around the country. I am thrilled that MSUFCU’s generous gift puts us on the way to bringing this extraordinary system to the Lansing area and to MSU’s campus,” said MSU Museum Director Mark Auslander. “I am confident that MSU students and our K-12 student partners in the region will develop original, creative presentations to project on the sphere, allowing our visitors to engage in exciting explorations of science, culture and the arts throughout the world.”

The MSU Museum aims to open the SOS gallery in October 2019.

The five-foot diameter sphere is suspended by near-invisible guide wires and is the target of four precisely-aligned projectors. The sphere illustrates everything from the spread of global influenza to Facebook usage and glacier retreat. The SOS database stores real-time patterns for one month, but also catalogues information from historic events, such as the 2011 tsunami that struck Japan, and the development of Super Storm Sandy in 2012.

"SOS is a terrific facility for visualizing the complex datasets typical of forefront research in the College of Natural Science, ranging from the structure of the cosmos to climate variations on a global scale,” said Phillip Duxbury, incoming dean of the College of Natural Sciences and professor of condensed matter theory. “SOS translates these enormous data sets into clear and concise images that are accessible to K-12 students and the general public. We are grateful for the generosity of the MSU Federal Credit Union which will make this facility a reality for the MSU community."

The MSUFCU will also continue its support of the Museum’s preschool program and the annual Dinosaur Dash 5K race.

“MSUFCU is pleased to expand our partnership with the MSU Museum to bring SOS to our community," said April Clobes, MSUFCU’s president and CEO. “Access to this technology will provide the opportunity for many faculty and students to achieve academic success.”

Following the MSUFCU gift, the MSU Museum will pursue a fundraising goal of $100,000 in Fall 2018 to prepare the gallery for the system. Needed improvements include an air-conditioned control room to house the computer servers and other devices needed to run this sophisticated array. The current first floor Heritage Gallery space will house the sphere, to be renamed “The MSU Federal Credit Union Science on a Sphere Gallery”.

The MSU Museum is the science and culture museum at Michigan State University and the state’s first Smithsonian Affiliate. The museum features three floors of special collections and changing exhibits and is open six days a week free of charge (donations are encouraged). The museum is located on 409 West Circle Drive next to Beaumont Tower on the MSU campus. Hours are Monday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Tuesday, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Wednesday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10a.m. -5 p.m.; and Sunday, closed. Visitor parking is available at metered spaces at the Grand River Ramp, one block away at the corner of Grand River Avenue and Charles Street. For more information, call (517) 355-2370 or see

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