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Science Centre AHHAA
AHHAA logo.jpg
AHHAA logo
Established 1 September 1997 (1997-09-01)
Location Tartu
Type Science museum
Founder City of Tartu and the University of Tartu

Science Centre AHHAA is the biggest science centre in Estonia and the Baltic states, located in Tartu. The main purposes of AHHAA are establishing positive attitude towards science and technology, promoting scientific approach and exciting interest in the general public.

Since 7 May 2011, Science Centre AHHAA is located in their new building in the heart of Tartu.



AHHAA was established as a project of the University of Tartu on 1 September 1997 and by 2004 it had developed into a foundation constituted by the city of Tartu and the University of Tartu. From the very beginning, the head of Science Centre AHHAA was Tiiu Sild. In 2008, the AHHAA 4D Adventure Cinema was opened in the Lõunakeskus shopping centre in Tartu. In 2009, a branch office of Science Centre AHHAA was opened in Tallinn at the Freedom Square. On 7 May 2011 Science Centre AHHAA in Tartu opened the doors of its new, 11,156 m² building engineered by architects Vilen Künnapu and Ain Padrik in the heart of the city.

The activities of the Science Centre AHHAA Foundation are coordinated by a committee composed of Jarno Laur, Hannes Astok, Mart Noorma, Jaanus Karv, Karin Jaanson and Indrek Ots.

Additionally, the practical aspects of the activities of the foundation are appraised by a science committee composed of Jaak Kikas, Jaak Jaaniste, Toivo Maimets, Per-Edvin Persson, Helle Järvalt, Peeter Saari, Mart Noorma and Arko Olesk.


The new and modern building of Science Centre AHHAA is situated in the city centre of Tartu at Sadama 1. The construction of the centre's new building was launched in the summer of 2008 with the ground-breaking, and the work was finished by the end of 2010. The building in question covers a total of over 10,000 m2 with a cubage amounting to more than 54,000 m3. It consists of three uniquely shaped blocks of exhibition halls (a dome, a half-dome and a box) which extend through several storeys. Furthermore, there is a full-sphere planetarium on the roof on top of the building. The framework of the building is made of the monolithic ferroconcrete, while the roof arcs of the dome and the half-dome are made of glue-laminated timber. Science Centre AHHAA together with its surrounding buildings (a parking-house, a tower-dwelling and yet-to-be-constructed office building) comprises a harmonious architectural ensemble that chimes in with the neighbouring buildings. The E. M. Uswansky & Sons Leather Factory that was located on the ground-lot where the new building of Science Centre AHHAA now stands is commemorated with a monumental wall-fragment built of the dissembled building's red bricks.


Science theatre in 2012.

The purpose of AHHAA is to offer an interesting and exciting study environment that would promote the gaining of new knowledge. The main aim is to popularise science and encourage people, especially youngsters, to notice the scientific aspects in their everyday lives; figuratively speaking, Science Centre AHHAA tries to lead people to the idea of asking why an apple should fall down instead of falling upwards.

The main learning method used is the "hands-on" style together with additional opportunities, such as the planetarium, the school laboratory pilot programs, the compiling of various study materials, science theatre shows etc. The Centre’s collaboration with schools attracts group visitors from all over Estonia to the science centre while simultaneously taking the services offered by AHHAA (the science theatre, lectures, and exhibitions) to other cities and different parts of the country. Science Centre AHHAA has a strong partnership with the science centres in other countries (Heureka in Finland, Experimentarium in Denmark), with international organizations (ICOM, British Council, ECSITE, NSCF), science museums (Natural History Museum in the UK, Bloomfield Science Museum in Israel, Deutsches Museum in Germany), academic institutions (the University of Tartu) and hobby schools (Tartu Art School).


Science Centre AHHAA is situated on an area between the Aura Waterpark, the Tartu Bus Station, the Emajõgi river and the Zeppelin shopping centre just beside the multi-storey Tigutorn apartment building. The most distinctive features of the building of AHHAA are the full-sphere planetarium on top of the roof and the hybrid turbine towering in the middle of the forecourt of the science centre.

Hybrid turbine[edit]

The hybrid turbine is an electricity-generating permanent exhibit in the middle of the forecourt in front of Science Centre AHHAA with the main purpose of informing people about the various possibilities of the usage of renewable power sources and triggering discussion on energy-related topics among the public at large.

On the very top of the 18.5-metre girder pole lies the vertical-axis Savonius wind turbine, which has been especially built for midland conditions (i.e. mild winds). In addition to the production of wind power, there are 9 highly efficient solar panels attached to the pole. All the energy produced is stored in accumulators and is used to illuminate the whirling turbine in the evenings. The future plans also include the construction of a recharging area for electric cars that use ‘green’ power next to the turbine.

Furthermore, Science Centre AHHAA is also planning to set up a real-time monitoring system, which would help to visualize the amount of the electricity produced on graphs (by months, years) on a data screen to be located in the lobby of the centre.

Exhibition Halls of Science Centre AHHAA[edit]


Hall of Technology[edit]

The exhibits in the Hall of Technology (+ 2 indoor balconies) demonstrate the resourceful technological achievements that have been conditioned by daily necessities. Visitors can try how the block and tackle works, peek into the spokes of auto mechanics and see how the laws of physics apply - the well-known and memorised laws, phenomena, formulas and effects can be learned by experimenting and thus truly acquired.

Hall of Nature[edit]

Hall of Nature

The exhibits in the Hall of Nature draw attention to how the nature surrounding us operates according to certain laws. The links between the fish or mould and science might go unnoticed at the first glance but at a closer look, after immersing oneself in the principles of the exhibits’ working principles, one can really understand the scientific side of nature.

Biology, physics, geography and materials science are just a few among the fields of science represented in the Hall of Nature.

The busy life of the chicks residing in the hatchery of the Hall of Nature can be observed 24/7 conveniently through the chick live stream, easily found on AHHAA's website.

Hall of Temporary Exhibitions[edit]

The Hall of Temporary Exhibitions holds different travelling exhibitions that the inventors and exhibit-builders of the centre build and develop, and also the travelling exhibitions that Science Centre AHHAA rents from global distributors. These exhibitions change a few times a year.

On 7 May 2015, "Aha, Top Secret!" was opened in the Hall of Temporary Exhibitions. This exhibition is originally from the Techmania Science Centre in Plzeň and was built by Technopolis (Belgium) and Experimentarium science centres.


Right after stepping through the main entrance of the centre, the visitors are greeted by a spacious lobby supplied with lockers, harness hooks and custom-designed benches to sit on. The interactive house guide and several information screens with schedules for the science theatre shows, workshops and planetarium sessions are also found in the lobby.

Access to the lecture hall and to all of the conference rooms is through the lobby, the entrance to the Science Shop lies on one side of the ticket desk and the access to the exhibitions on the other.

Science Theatre[edit]

The main sponsor behind AHHAA's Science Theatre is AGA. The theatre meets the requirements of all security and safety regulations and has been especially designed to withstand both spectacular explosions and experiments with gases as well as the conducting of spacious demonstrations.

The science theatre shows from various fields are carried out by trained specialists and can also be pre-booked for events taking place outside the centre. The shows are divided into categories (physics, chemistry, air, rescue and health) and there are also seasonal shows during the Christmas or Easter period, for instance.


The purpose of AHHAA's workshops is to teach one through interesting activities and hands-on learning methods to notice science in the phenomena that surround us. There are 4-5 workshops each day during the opening hours of the centre, and just like the science theatre shows, workshops can be pre-booked to events in locations outside the centre (schools, seminar venues) as an alternative pastime. The workshops from the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, energetics, light, astronomy and cooking are carried out by the centre’s trained edutainers.


The maintenance and working order of all of the exhibits is the responsibility of exhibition masters. The exhibits are stationed in different halls, mostly according to their character, and then there are those, which are positioned already in the lobby. The visualization of the fundamental laws of physics, also known as "Newton's Apple Tree" in the lobby, the size-shifting Hoberman sphere beneath the dome of the Hall of Technology, the training device of Estonian astronauts on the third balcony of the Hall of Technology and "The World of Water" occupying almost a fifth of the floor surface of the Hall of Nature belong among the most distinguishable technical solutions.


Science Centre AHHAA offers an amazing view of the starry skies in quite a unique place – a fully spherical hybrid planetarium (which means that there is a possibility to show the skies with both optical and digital projection, which can be displayed either separately or together).

Constructional and technical side[edit]

The uniqueness of AHHAA's planetarium lies in the fact that in addition to the ordinary view on the ceiling and the walls, the image of the skies in the planetarium of the center also extends under the floor, which is the reason why the floor of the planetarium is made of glass.[1]

The AHHAA-type fully spherical planetariums are world-scale rarities as most planetariums around the World are dome-shaped half-spheres. The extraordinary nature of the full sphere can be best understood when experiencing the effect of being in the middle of the stars while sitting in the planetarium – the projection of the starry skies reaches from high above to the surrounding walls, stretching deep down under the stargazers' feet.

The projectors MEGASTAR ZERO and MEGASTAR IIB that Science Centre AHHAA uses in its planetarium originate from Ohira Tech Ltd. in Japan. Takayuki Ohira, the CEO of the company, is the sole idea generator behind the star-projectors. The Megastar-type projectors used in AHHAA are capable of projecting about 5 million stars and are thus the proud owners of a Guinness record for being the mothers of all planetariums.

The digital image of AHHAA's planetarium is induced by the UNIVIEW program (developed in SCISS AB, Sweden). There are five synchronic co-operating projectors installed for generating the digital projection, which expands in a manner that allows the imagery to range up to 300 °C.

In the background of each planetarium session plays a symphony dedicated to the Megastar projector; the author of the masterpiece is a French composer Eric Aron who himself is a hobby astronomer and is musically inspired by the heavens, the stars and the Universe.


  • 9 meters in diameter
  • 14-16 seats
  • The first planetarium in Europe to use the MEGASTAR projector
  • Currently the first and the only hybrid-planetarium (multiple projector system) in the Baltic states

The AHHAA Planetarium belongs to two organisations:

  • The Nordic Planetarium Association
  • The International Planetarium Society

Science Shop[edit]

The AHHAA Science Shop can be found on the first floor of Science Centre AHHAA in Tartu. Entrance to the shop lies before the ticket desk so that one can go to the shop without buying a ticket. The AHHAA Science Shop is the largest of its kind in Estonia offering a variety of board games that stimulate logical thinking, models of the human body, maps of the sky, lollipops with real insects hidden inside them, robots, home planetariums (which have been manufactured in Ohira Tech Ltd) etc. BrainGames, HexBug and Eitech are a few examples of the globally known brands represented in the Science Shop.

The AHHAA Science Shop has its own workshops where visitors can demonstrate their dexterity and craftsmanship.

4D Adventure Cinema[edit]

Science Centre AHHAA has a 4D Adventure Cinema, located in the Lõunakeskus shopping centre on the southern edge of Tartu.

The constructional nature and working methods of the two cinemas are different but they both offer an equally adventurous and thrilling cinema-experience.

The cinema was opened on 18 July 2008. To get the complete wow-effect, each visitor receives a pair of 3D glasses and is seated comfortably on a platform facing the huge screen. The heart of the cinema is the hydraulic pump and 500 litres of oil that puts the platform into motion. In addition to the bouncing platform and 3D image the cinema uses water, snow and wind effects when the essence of the movie demands so.

Since its opening, the cinema has hosted 14 movies, which have, so far, been divided into topics of adventure, racing, academics and snow. The shortest movie shown today lasts a mere 3.30 minutes while the longest lasts as long as 9.50 minutes.



More than just the everyday functioning of the centre, the Science Centre AHHAA Foundation regularly organizes several special events and the building of the centre is often used for receptions, award galas and the filming of television shows. Some of the most reputable events are listed below:

  • The annual science festival – organized all over Estonia; each day of the third week of September is filled with different events promoting a scientific approach to matters.
  • The Researchers' Night – the peak of the annual science festival with extremely tight daytime schedule and fabulous night-time activities.
  • The Science Cafés – lectures that are mainly held during the Science Festival on topics of popular science in a common and informal way by specialists of the respective fields to evoke questions and debate among the audience while having a cup of coffee and enjoying an intelligent atmosphere.
  • The AHHAA overnight camp – exclusive one night stays at Science Centre AHHAA usually organised during school holidays where students can discover the backstage of the centre, enjoy an exclusive planetarium session and get a glimpse of the yet unseen nightlife of all the animals residing in the centre.
  • The AHHAA City Camp – also held during the school holidays, aimed to help students spend their free time among interesting people in the fascinating world of educational science.
  • Rakett 69 – a television show targeted at talented young minds who are keen on science; filmed at Science Centre AHHAA.

AHHAA in Tallinn[edit]

A branch office of Science Centre AHHAA was opened in Tallinn in 2009, physically located on the basement floor of the Freedom Square.

Similarly to the science centre in Tartu, AHHAA in Tallinn was a place where science and technology met fun and games offering satisfying opportunities for experimenting and discovering. In Tallinn, there were several workshops and temporary exhibitions to visit in addition to the permanent exhibition hall.

The AHHAA 4D Adventure Cinema in Tallinn was a 9-seat adventure capsule resembling a real space rocket. The German-built capsule is unique all over the world due to its interior and state-of-the-art video projection allowing to achieve a top class high resolution 3D-image. Similar capsules are extremely popular in the museums of the USA and in few locations in Europe, while the capsule of Science Centre AHHAA in Tallinn is the only one of its kind in the Baltic States and Scandinavian countries.

On 3 January AHHAA announced that the branch office in Tallinn was to be closed in the end of April 2013, as the rooms did not meet the requirements of the science centre. Another reason was that the rental agreement between AHHAA and Tallinn City Government had to be renewed every year, making it impossible to rent new exhibitions from abroad. Also, the City Government did not support the proposed project for a new exhibition.

After the Tallinn branch of AHHAA was closed, a small centre was opened temporarily in Port Artur Shopping Centre in Pärnu on 1 June 2013. In addition to "Aha, Sparkling and Sizzling!", an exhibition on light and physics, visitors could also take part in several workshops. AHHAA in Pärnu was closed in the end of August 2013.

International representation[edit]

The Science Centre AHHAA Foundation participates actively in science festivals and fairs both in Estonia as well as abroad, its main “trade tricks” being the science theatre shows and various workshops. During the past few years Festival della Scienza and Perugia Science Fest in Italy, Korea Science Festival in South-Korea, Moscow Science Festival in Russia, Science Picnic in Poland and Science Festival Belgrade in Serbia have been among the few places where Science Centre AHHAA has been represented.

Acknowledgements and credits[edit]

Science Centre AHHAA has been awarded with numerous prizes both for the building as well as for its intellectual achievements.

  • At the TourEst2012 fair held on February 17–19, 2012 Science Centre AHHAA in Tartu was declared to be the best tourism destination in 2011 by the Union of Estonian Enterprises of Tourism [1].
  • On February 16, 2012 the Tartu City Council posthumously awarded Tiiu Sild – the creator and leader of Science Centre AHHAA – with the title of the Honorary Citizen of Tartu [2].
  • On December 19, 2011 Tiiu Sild, the head of Science Centre AHHAA received an award of courtesy for the year 2011, given out by a family magazine “Pere ja Kodu” [3].
  • On December 7, 2011 Science Centre AHHAA in Tartu was awarded with the title “The Best Tourism Destination in 2011” by the Foundation South Estonian Tourism [4].
  • On November 28, 2011 Science Centre AHHAA in Tartu won the competition of the Achievement of the Year [5].
  • On November 11, 2011, during the scientific media conference called “MIDA?!” the head of Science Centre AHHAA, Tiiu Sild, was announced to have been awarded the lifetime achievement award for popularising science. [6].
  • Between November 2 and 5, 2011 at the IFD Congress held in Dublin, Ireland the roof of Science Centre AHHAA constructed by Nordecon, presided over by Peeter Voovere, was announced the World’s Best-Built Roof in 2010-2011 in the category of metal roofs [7].
  • On October 7, 2011 the footprints of Tiiu Sild, the head of the Science Centre AHHAA, were permanently paved into the alley of famous and influential citizens of Tartu [8].
  • On March 4, 2011 Science Centre AHHAA won the title of “The Best Building in Tartu 2010” in the category of other new buildings [9].

Donors and sponsors[edit]

The activities of the Science Centre AHHAA Foundation are funded and sponsored by many academic institutions but close-knit relationships have been established with collaboration partners from private and public sectors as well:

The Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, the City of Tartu, the University of Tartu, Haribo, Laima, AGA Estonia, Tallegg, Nordea Bank, the Environmental Investment Centre, The Rakvere Meat Factory, A.Le Coq Tartu Brewery.


  1. ^ Aru, Margus (March–June 2012). "Under One Dome: AHHAA Science Centre Planetarium". Planetarian: Journal of the International Planetarium Society 41 (2): 57. Retrieved 2014-06-04. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 58°22′36″N 26°44′03″E / 58.376694°N 26.734098°E / 58.376694; 26.734098