Science museum's latest marvel taking form in Raleigh

No, it's the Daily Planet, the science museum's latest marvel

August 29, 2011 

— Amid the straight edges and gridded streets of downtown Raleigh, a giant ball has appeared at Jones and Salisbury streets, like a colossal marble that has rolled into a corner.

This big yellow ball will become the SECU Daily Planet, a round theater of sorts in which groups of schoolchildren and other visitors will learn about the latest in scientific research.

When it is completed next spring, the Daily Planet will be the centerpiece of the Nature Research Center, a $54 million addition to the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.

Although the science museum presents what scientists know about the natural world, the new wing will focus on current research. "It is how we know what we know," said Meg Lowman, director of the research center.

The center will have participatory exhibits, games and displays, as well as working labs that allow visitors to help with scientific research. Inside the Daily Planet, museum staff and others will present videos, maps and graphs on a screen that surrounds the audience.

"Kids are so visual now; we want it be compelling," Lowman said.

The ball's yellow color comes from the layer of insulation that will soon be covered in stainless steel. Eventually, the steel will disappear under a sheath depicting the planet.

The 80,000-square-foot Nature Research Center is part of a larger development called Green Square, which includes a parking deck, an office building for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and a 12-story office building being built by the State Employees Credit Union.

The research center is scheduled to open in April.

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