In Saturn’s Rings


Space geeks, ahoy! This one’s for us. This is an amazing movie put together by amateur filmmaker Stephen van Vuuren, using over a million photos culled from more than fifteen different sources, including Apollo missions 8 – 17, the Hubble telescope, Voyagers 1 & 2, and of course the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn. From the web site:

The first idea for “In Saturn’s Rings” was born in the early hours of the morning, July 1st, 2004 when the Cassini-Huygens Mission arrived at Saturn.

Ignored by broadcast television networks, the arrival was only live on NASA TV’s web stream. As I saw the first raw photographs come down, I was blown away by their sublime beauty. “If only we had a film or video camera their – then people would really get excited.” was the first thought that went through my mind.

But all we have is still photographs. Thousands of incredible photographs…like the many photos from the Apollo lunar missions, the photographs are both proof of we’re we’ve been and a way to try to capture the jaw-dropping beauty of the Universe. But unlike Apollo, no astronauts took the pictures, no humans have ever been to Saturn. That’s probably why the media largely ignored this incredible mission and many of us feel little connection to robotic missions that explore these distant worlds.

Yes, these are all REAL photos, there’s no CGI involved. Full-screen it to watch, although you’ll need a really fast connection to watch in the original 4K (I watch it in the default setting of 360 and it brings tears to my eyes every time). This is the closest I will get to actual space travel. AND IT’S KILLING ME.

Even on my little laptop the clarity and depth are breathtaking. There are a few other clips at the site you can watch as well.

The filmmaker is raising funds for this, a modest budget of $225,000 (compared to the $6M usually needed for an IMAX release). As of this writing their counter looks like they’re at about $120K, so nearly halfway there. They’re targeting a 2014 release. If you want to donate you can do so here. There’s also a newsletter you can sign up for (of course I did) here. The movie is dedicated to Carl Sagan and Stanley Kubrick.

When I see something like this, knowing I will never go to the stars or make contact with an alien race, I feel like penning a letter to those other races who I feel sure are out there and say I’m sorry I never had the chance to meet you, to learn from you, to understand you, to share part of this journey of life with you. Whatever stupid things humanity may inflict on the rest of the cosmos in the coming aeons, think kindly of those of us who desperately wanted to be good cosmic citizens.

I get the same feeling when I watch “Contact.” Then I go outside, look up at the stars and wave to Vega. Y’know, just in case.

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