Category Archives: Space

Space Music: Paul Novros accompanies the universe

The documentaries below were made in the 1970s by Lester Novros, then a professor at the USC film school where his students included George Lucas.  The understated elegance of these films is nicely framed by Paul Novros‘s music.  The younger Novros is a professor of jazz at CalArts.  I asked him whether he had any soundtracks available.  He was pleasantly surprised to be reminded of the work but has no separate recordings or scores.

Lester Novros and his Graphic Films studio had a major albeit little-known influence on Stanley Kubrick and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Special effects legend Douglas Trumbull worked with him in Los Angeles but ultimately moved to work directly with Kubrick in England. Barbara Miller’s article “Graphic Films and the Inception of 2001: A Space Odyssey” is good reading.

via the U.S. National Archives

via Jeff Quitney

Monolith Monograph: The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey

A young filmmaker dives deeply in five parts into the technical and artistic innards of his (and one of my) favorite movies. One wishes that he spoke a little slower and left some breathing room in his edits but it is an earnest, meticulous, and illuminating effort. The engineering alone that went into 2001 is awe-inspiring. Did Kubrick sleep during the two years it took to make?

Via Channel CinemaTyler

Fly US to the Moon: von Braun vs. Houbolt

To this day, the questionable Wernher von Braun gets credit for most American space accomplishments of the 1950s and 1960s. He tirelessly aimed at the stars (with the occasional drops on London) but engineering realities were at odds with his grandiose plans and even grandioser rockets. John Houbolt’s Lunar Orbit Rendezvous approach eventually won out and his role in Apollo’s success is insufficiently known. Here’s a comparison.

Channel: Dan Beaumont Space Museum

Wernher von Braun explains the possibility to reach the Moon. "Man and the Moon", Dec. 28, 1955

Watch this video on YouTube.

Channel: Jeff Quitney

Project Apollo: "Lunar Orbit Rendezvous" 1968 NASA Mission Planning and Analysis Division

Watch this video on YouTube.

A star is born: But the details aren’t easy

A large, cold, dilute gas of hydrogen and space dust collapses slowly under its own gravity, compression, heating, and fusion take place aided and abetted by shock waves, and then a star glows for millions to trillions of years.

That’s how it is usually explained but the numbers are hard to grasp. The clouds can be dozens of light years across, the gas pressures are lower than the best vacuums on earth, the shock waves aren’t the kind we associate with sonic booms, and it can take tens of millions of years to get the party started.

Yet it happens and we are here because of it. The details are very tough sledding but equally interesting.

Introductory Astronomy: Star Formation and the Lifetimes of Stars

Watch this video on YouTube.

"Star Formation and Feedback" – Eve Ostriker

Watch this video on YouTube.

Voyager – The Interstellar Mission

39 years ago today, Voyager 1 took flight on its Grand Tour. It has gone farther than any other man-made object in history and won’t stop until it reaches the stars long after we and all that’s important to us are dust. Idealism wasn’t for chumps back then. Or maybe it was. JPL and NASA post the mission data from all these interplanetary missions and it is all free.

Filmmaker Santiago Menghini brings an artist’s perspective to the journey in his short film, “Voyagers.”


So near, yet so far: Carnegie Observatories 2016 Lecture Series

Update: 17 March 2016
The seminar series including music performances will be webcast live this year. Details will be provided in the next few days

Image courtesy of the Carnegie Observatories

The Carnegie Observatories of Pasadena have announced their 2016 Lecture series, beginning in early April 2016 at the Huntington Library in San Marino.   There will be four talks by learn’d astronomers on the Las Campanas observatories, Planet formation, Exoplanets, and the lifecycle of Galaxies.  Each will be preceded by music performances by students from the Colburn School.  The talks are free but reservations are required.  Doors open at 6:45pm, talks begin at 7:30pm.

Visit the Observatories’s Youtube Channel for rigorous yet accessible talks from previous years.  The only downside is that the events are on Monday nights,  a hell of a schlep for those of us in the South Bay.

Carnegie Spring Lectures at the Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road, San Marino
All Lectures are in Rothenberg Auditorium.

Monday, April 4th 2016
Las Campanas Observatory: A Southern Window on the Universe
Dr. Mark Phillips
Director, Las Campanas Observatory, Associate Director for Magellan
Carnegie Institution for Science

Monday, April 18th 2016
A Short History of Planet Formation
Dr. Anat Shahar
Staff Scientist, Geophysical Laboratory
Carnegie Institution for Science

Monday, May 2nd 2016
Dr. Kevin Schlaufman
Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University
Carnegie-Princeton Fellow

Carnegie Observatories & Princeton University

Monday, May 16th 2016
The Secret Lives of Galaxies
Dr. Katherine Alatalo
Hubble Fellow,
Carnegie Observatories