ANALYSIS New RAS 200 show is all-round impressive ave you been to a planetarium in the last 10 years? If not, then stop reading, put down HA&G and arrange a trip. Trust me. Do it now. It is glorious. At the planetarium at the National Space Centre in Leicester you feel genuinely immersed in the action – and it beats any cinema hands down. Stephen Serjeant I was delighted to be invited to the National Space applauds the Centre to the premiere of The Planets 360, a new plan- creativity on show etarium show made by NSC Creative and funded by the RAS 200 Sky & Earth anniversary project. The at the premiere production team has avoided the well-trodden route of The Planets 360, of making a didactic educational experience, instead one of the RAS 200 concentrating on triggering emotional reactions with anniversary engaging visuals. The first half uses captivating and intriguing recent planetary images accompanied outreach projects. by Holst’s The Planets orchestral suite. The second is 1 An astronaut spirals into Jupiter’s Red Spot. (NSC Creative) a radical – possibly controversial – reimagining of a planetarium show with modern electronic music devastation of the barren martian desert. These dark and more impressionistic visuals. This is genuinely human instincts find some antidote in Jupiter, in different, and I hope it finds new audiences. which a person in a spacesuit falls into the Red Spot, The classical section, performed by the Philhar- through u fl id dynamical swirls and ultimately, 2001- monic Orchestra, opens with Mars with its dramatic style, into a hidden civilization, reminding us that 5/4 time signature. The topography of the Red Planet humans are capable of greater things than war. If you is beautifully rendered and there is a lovely engi- care about the physics of whether this is possible, you neering layout of a Mars mission and its launch. The are right, but you’re also missing the point. rocket does not launch in the serene, slow-motion Venus had the most positive reactions from way shown in movies, but more like a missile – and astronomers afterwards. Geometric tessellations are the link with warfare is no accident. everywhere, partly surrounding Venus In science we try to do great things for ‘‘Holst might have (a nod to its power ful greenhouse human understanding, but the wider written dier ff ently if atmosphere?) and in small clumps activity that makes it possible can be he had seen Jupiter’s emitted from the surface, reminding part of darker human motivations. l fi igree detail’’ me of how I imagine small, volatile The sections on Venus and Mercury molecules. The landscape rendering is showcase geological mapping of their surfaces, but simplie fi d, using geometric blocks like an old video my favourites were the gas and ice giants. There’s game, reminding me of how physicists make mental a certain incongruity between Holst’s rendering of approximations. The production team also had an these planets and the mysteries we are uncovering imaginative take on Mercury, portraying its eventual about their clouds and poles, as well as the diversity destruction by the Sun. of their moons. Holst might have written differently The ice giants are impressionistic. Uranus, Holst’s if he had seen Jupiter’s filigree detail. The rendering “magician”, with its mysterious banded cloud of Saturn is particularly impressive, with the rings structure, is articulated as mysterious poised human passing overhead and Saturn looming closer directly characters made with horizontal striations. Neptune behind you, as you fall backwards into the planet. “the mystic” is quite cryptic, with a trio of swimming machines or creatures. The piece ends emotively Creative freedom with Saturn, “bringer of old age”, which imagines In the second half of the show, the production team life on one of the moons. Old life sends out spores to allowed themselves much more creative freedom create the new, and the circular imagery reminds me and the result is very different. The music is “ambient of both Saturn’s rings and of the circle of life. trance” and, as a classical musician remarked to me The electronica section is bound to be controver- afterwards, the show would work well in a dome at sial among academics, but all creative e fi lds need to AUTHOR Glastonbury Festival. Again, it opens dramatically take risks, and I maintain that these are risks worth Stephen Serjeant is professor of with Mars, this time with an explicit theme of war. taking and that these pieces succeed. We humans astronomy at the Open University and Images of spacesuits are interspersed with skulls are not simply rational beings, and science needs to a member of the RAS 200 Steering Committee. and crumbling bodies, using bright lights against the engage on more than just an intellectual level. ● A&G • June 2018 • Vol. 59 • aandg.org 3.11 Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/astrogeo/article-abstract/59/3/3.11/4995430 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 20 June 2018
Astronomy & Geophysics – Oxford University Press
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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