The Eternal Sky: A Short Film about Building the Simons Observatory

By looking for signs of cosmic inflation, the Simons Observatory will answer questions about the origin of the universe. First in a series.

High in the mountains of Chile, the hardscrabble landscape of the Atacama Desert extends endlessly across the horizon. There is no grass, no water, and not much oxygen. It’s the perfect place to figure out how the universe began.

That is the scene set by “The Eternal Sky.” Filmmaker Debra Kellner documents the development and construction of the new Simons Observatory, located next to several other research facilities in the area. In fact, two previously independent undertakings, the POLARBEAR (Polarization of Background Radiation) project and the Atacama Cosmology Telescope project, have come together under the Simons Observatory banner. In this venture, scientists and engineers are designing and building new telescopes with new receivers, new detectors and new software. The equipment will detect even the weakest signals of cosmic inflation, which researchers theorize occurred right after the Big Bang and seeded the formation of galaxies and other structures seen in the universe today.

Sponsored by the Simons Foundation, “The Eternal Sky” is the first of several short films to highlight the science and the people behind the project. Placing critical importance on understandability for viewers not familiar with cosmology, Kellner strikes a balance between art and science. “Not being a science person myself, I thought: If I can explain this with as much poetry and beauty as it deserves, then we can really reach a lot of people,” she says.

_L1A2581

Still images from "The Eternal Sky."

_L1A2597

Still images from "The Eternal Sky."

_L1A2766

Still images from "The Eternal Sky."

_L1A2795

Still images from "The Eternal Sky."

01001912

Still images from "The Eternal Sky."

01002723

Still images from "The Eternal Sky."

01011608

Still images from "The Eternal Sky."

01024314

Still images from "The Eternal Sky."

01031419

Still images from "The Eternal Sky."

01032306

Still images from "The Eternal Sky."

01035222

Still images from "The Eternal Sky."

01043802

Still images from "The Eternal Sky."

This first installment in the series features next-generation drone footage, which Kellner uses to show the breadth of the landscape and the scope of the project. The facilities are located 17,000 feet above sea level, so she may have set a drone altitude record. Certainly, the drone enabled her to take some of her dream shots, Kellner says.

The thin air is a challenge for anyone working there. Kellner says that she and her crew spent the first few days of their two-week visit in a state of dizziness. But that giddiness only intensified their sense of being involved in a truly otherworldly experience, she says.

The second installment of “The Eternal Sky” is scheduled for release later this year.

Related

Simons Observatory to Search for Origin of the Cosmos
New Telescopes Search for Origin of Universe

Add a Comment

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Your name will appear near your comment. Required *