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July 13, 2012

Biosphere 2: Where science lives

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Photos and story by Capt. Elizabeth Magnusson
944th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Visitors to Biosphere 2 can explore 7,200,000 cubic feet of sealed glass structure on a guided tour that takes them through five ecosystems including an ocean with coral reef, mangrove wetlands, a tropical rainforest, savannah grassland and a fog desert. The tour also takes a look at the mechanics of the Biosphere with a visit to the technosphere where all the electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems are housed.

Biosphere 2 offers one of Time Life’s 50 must-see “Wonders of the World,” and a great weekend destination right in our own backyard.

Located just a short two hours from Phoenix at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, the one-of-a-kind structure is a great weekend destination for families and friends. Now owned by the University of Arizona, Biosphere 2 was built in 1986 to research and develop self-sustaining space-colonization technology.

Biosphere 2, one of Time Life’s 50 must-see “Wonders of the World,” is located just north of Tucson at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The one-of-a-kind facility sits on a ridge at an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet and is surrounded by a natural desert preserve.

The facility is most famous for its two missions in the early 1990s, which sealed scientists inside the enclosure first for two years, then again for seven months. Without external interference, researchers were able to study how changes to Earth’s atmosphere occur and affect its ecology. Since then, the facility has been sponsored by different universities for research, including studies on the effects of carbon dioxide on plants, the consequences of global climate change and land erosion.

Visitors can view exhibits and multimedia displays including a movie highlighting the past, present and future of Biosphere. Beyond the visitors’ center, follow paths to the Biosphere dome and be led on a guided tour through the immense glass structure and five ecosystems including an ocean with coral reef, mangrove wetlands, a tropical rainforest, savannah grassland and a fog desert. Visitors will see real-time research and get a chance to wander through the living quarters of the original Biospherians. In addition to upper Biomes, tour the basement technosphere and check out the “lungs” that help the Biosphere breathe.

Biosphere 2 is a must to visit, even for those who are not science buffs. Just don’t ask where Biosphere 1 is … hint, we live in it.

Biosphere 2 is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. No reservations are required. For more information, call (520) 838-6200, or visit the website at http://www.b2science.org.

Visitors walk down a path through the fog desert during a tour of Biosphere 2.

Tour guides lead visitors down a maze of trails through the glass-covered biosphere, stopping to explain the ecosystems including the technology used to keep the biosphere functioning. The guides also share information on current, past and future experiments and projects being performed in the complex.




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