Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Hidden Universe 3D": Maybe the best look at Mars, and the similar Atacama Desert ever; the choice between music and astrophysics as a career


An Australian outfit called December Media (and MacGillivray Freeman)  offers an IMAX 3D film at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, “Hidden Universe 3D”, 37 min, depicting the construction and use of a Very Large Telescope in the Atacama Desert in Chile.  The documentary says that the hardware is installed at 16000 feet elevation. 

The main characters in the documentary are narrator Maranda Richardson, astronomer Dr. Greg Poole, and an astrophysicist, Jonathan Whitmore, probably the most interesting. Whitmore, a slender, balding young man, is first shown playing the piano – music never identified but it sounds like a slow movement from a Clementi sonata.  He says he had to make a decision between music and science, particularly astronomy and cosmology.

The movie treats us to probably the most impressive 3-D photography from Mars yet, with a tremendous shot of the gigantic Martian Grand Canyon (apparently about twice as deep as its counterpart in Arizona).  It shows a lot of the scenery of the Atacama, with a lot of fingerlike formations.  It shows a little of Chilean village life below the plateau, as if Anthony Bourdain were about to show up. Then it shows us various shots of the Milky Way, and then the myriads of galaxies beyond.  It shows us a few famous nebulae, including the Crab.  The nebula has a diameter of 11 light years and is about 6500 light years away, with a neutron star in the center, left from a supernova.  Had it been much closer to Earth, could it have sent a gamma ray burst upon us, destroying all civilization and maybe all life?
  
  
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The film also has impressive pictures of the Sun, without mention of solar storms or coronal mass ejections. 


Pictures: From the Air and Space Museum. 


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