Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Seeing the Earth through Astronauts' Eyes ENVIRONMENT FILM

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Seeing the Earth through Astronauts' Eyes ENVIRONMENT FILM

Article excerpt

`BLUE PLANET" is a cinematic dream-come-true for Earth lovers, tree huggers, travel bugs, and would-be astronauts.

The I-Max movie - being shown across the country - offers spectacular views of a fragile home shared by billions. Seen on a gigantic dome Omni-Max screen 76-feet in diameter, four stories high - with views of 180 degrees that surround the tilted tiers of seats - this astonishing film turns your perception of the earth into something richer. Music and sound thunder from 84 speakers behind the screen. The movie reel weighs 180 pounds and requires two people to load it into the enormous movie projector.

At the Museum of Science here, the film is part of an environmental program called "There's No Place Like Home' that includes the movie, a hands-on exhibit of rain forests, and a riveting planetarium show of the evolution of Earth's destruction.

More than half the film for "Blue Planet" comes from footage taken on several space-shuttle missions - Atlantis, Discovery, Columbia - as well as the Apollo missions to the moon. Astronauts were trained to use special I-Max cameras that weigh 80 pounds on Earth, but nothing in space. From space, viewers see Earth in all its fragility and beauty, and watch weather systems move across entire continents and oceans.

Most important: viewers see the "thin, blue line" of atmosphere that separates life below from space above. This layer of atmosphere, one learns, traps enough heat to maintain life, unlike cold and barren Mars, which looms lifeless and frigid across the giant screen. The earth's layer also protects us from too much heat, like the 900-degree F. temperatures - enough to melt lead - on our neighbor, Venus.

Throughout, the movie shows the slow wearing away of the gasses that help sustain life.

There's a "hole" in the protective ozone layer at the South Pole, and we see it from space. Many scientists predict sunlight reaching through this hole will cause ice caps to melt, sea levels to rise, and weather patterns to change. This effect hurts flora, fauna, and Earth's five billion human inhabitants, from nomads in the Mohave desert to urban dwellers in rainy Seattle. …

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