Sunlight – Ihi Kōmaru: from Photon to Photosynthesis

8 JanExhibitions / Learning and Discovery / Touring Shows

Summer is perfect to spend some time in the sun… and with this interactive from the Te Manawa-made Sunlight – Ihi Kōmaru exhibition, you’ll take charge of a photon and escape the sun, in a fun, interactive game for all ages!

Light is made up of photons. A photon is a tiny packet of electromagnetic energy. Photons have energy but no mass. The speed at which photons travel in space is called the speed of light. It is just under 300 million metres per second. After being created in the Sun’s core, photons keep bumping into charged particles on their way to the surface. Though it only takes about eight minutes for photons to reach Earth from the surface of the Sun the light you’re seeing today could be hundreds of thousands of years old!

Experience the journey for yourself. In the photon game, currently on display in the Atrium, you can even race your friends to see who’s photon will reach Earth first. Finally, once you reach the end, you’ll aim your photon at a plant and make photosynthesis happen!

Photosynthesis is the process that plants use to make their food. Without photosynthesis, there would be no people or animals, because they get oxygen and food from plants.

During photosynthesis plants convert sunlight into chemical energy. Plants use this chemical energy to create all the molecules they need for food. For photosynthesis to occur, plants must have carbon dioxide, water and sunlight. Inside some cells in the leaves are special structures called chloroplasts, which carry out photosynthesis. Inside chloroplasts are sacs which contain the pigment chlorophyll, which can trap energy from sunlight. Sunlight provides the energy for the plant to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen.

Oxygen is a waste product that the plant doesn’t need. Oxygen is released into the air by plants through stoma on the leaves. Humans and animals need this oxygen to stay alive. Some sugar is used immediately by the plant, and the rest is stored as starch.

In addition to the Photon game in the Atrium, you can also mix colours in Te Rangi Whenua.  Selected interactives from Sunlight – Ihi Kōmaru are on display over summer. 

Te Manawa makes exhibitions that tour other cities! The next time you’re on holiday and visiting another museum, the exhibition you’re experiencing may well have been designed and built in Palmerston North! Sunlight – Ihi Kōmaru is the latest science-based show the Te Manawa team has developed and was last on display at home four years ago. It joins others such as Body in Action, Sounds Amazing, and Mirror Magic to educate and inspire audiences across the country. Our social history exhibitions Farewell Zealandia – Forgotten Kiwi Songs of WWI and The Topp Twins exhibition are also regularly on the road. Hundreds of thousands of people experience Te Manawa on tour each year.

Do you have a venue interested in hosting a Te Manawa exhibition? Learn more about Sunlight – Ihi Kōmaru on our touring information page: https://www.temanawa.co.nz/sunlight/