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A peek at the behind-the-scenes movie magic that created 'Using colors to search for alien Earths'

November 3, 2010 1 comment

Astronomer Carolyn Crow, also the center of the solar system.

Carolyn Crow, UCLA graduate student and center of the solar system.

Someday, when we have space telescopes that can narrow in on the exceedingly weak light from incredibly distant planets around other stars, what will we do with those precious photons?

If you want to know, read the latest web feature and watch the video from NASA Goddard. I wrote the feature, “Using planet colors to search for alien Earths.”

I also had a chance to sit in on the studio work that produced the video featuring Carolyn Crow, a young scientist who led the research on planet colors. (She is currently a graduate student at UCLA.) As commonplace as green-screen technology is today, it’s movie magic that never fails to impress — especially when used as cleverly as it is in this video.

Producer/director Scott Wiessinger created a colorful digital landscape in which Crow strolled among the planets of our solar system in a modern version of Gulliver’s Travels. NASA/Goddard astrophysics writer Frank Reddy provided a concise and clear script.

Here is a behind-the-scenes peek at the movie magic.


looking stage left

Carolyn Crow stands ready to gesture at imaginary planets on Goddard TV’s green screen stage. To eliminate shadows and get the best results from the green screen process, the stage is brightly lit.



carolyn crow being filmed in front of a green screen

carolyn_after
Carolyn after being inserted into a digital landscape with starry background and planet Earth.


And here is the final result:


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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Did I Forget To Mention? Happy 5 Years, Deep Impact Mission!

July 13, 2010 4 comments
comet crash_202

This spectacular image of comet Tempel 1 was taken 67 seconds after it obliterated Deep Impact's impactor spacecraft.

In last week’s That Was The Week That Was, I neglected to celebrate a significant milestone: July 4, 2010, marked the 5th anniversary of the Deep Impact encounter with Comet 9P/Tempel. On July 4, 2005, the Deep Impact spacecraft hurled a heavy mass into the comet, excavating a crater and exposing fresh interior comet stuff to scientific analysis. Feel free to pause and feast on dramatic comet-smashing images and then catch up on the scientific findings.

Mike A’Hearn at the University of Maryland headed the Deep Impact science team, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California managed the project. So why is gogblog nattering on about Deep Impact?

One Goddard connection to Deep Impact is asteroid and meteorite scientist Lucy McFadden. She was a member of the Deep Impact science team and led the mission’s education and public outreach effort. She recently joined Goddard as Chief of University and Post-doctoral Programs. Although her job here is administrative, she remains an active researcher.

In Deep Impact’s present configuration, the Goddard links increase.

First, some brief background. The spacecraft is very much alive, and it’s still working for planetary science. The reincarnation of Deep Impact is called EPOXI. It’s actually two missions in one: the Extrasolar Planet Observation and Characterization (EPOCh) mission and the Deep Impact Extended Investigation (DIXI).

Deep Impact Earth-Moon_202EPOCh scrutinized a small number of stars in order to learn more about planets that we know are orbiting those stars, and to search for clues to other planets that might be orbiting the same stars. It also imaged Earth to get insights into how we might recognize an Earth-like world around another star. DIXI will study comet 103P/Hartley 2 during a November 2010 encounter.

McFadden is now working with EPOCh’s observations of Earth — more on this in a  future blog post. And Goddard’s Drake Deming, a leading exoplanet scientist, heads the EPOCh component of EPOXI.

Yep, that’s a lot of acronyms. A little confusing, even. But stay tuned, because you’ll be seeing them more often in the future in the science press and on gogblog.



cell_phone_moon_50***INFO UPDATE: There is a new way to get involved in International Observe the Moon Night: invite yourself on the Facebook Event Page.

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center.


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