Summer film series expands IU’s International Year of Astronomy

Free popcorn, the planet Saturn, mysterious shaving cream atoms and Australian sheep farmers should make Wednesday nights starting in June intriguing for families taking part in the Indiana University Astronomy Department’s International Year of Astronomy Summer Film Series.

Fresh on the heels of historic Kirkwood Observatory being named “Best IU Attraction” by the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Astronomy Department, part of the IU College of Arts and Sciences, continues a celebration of the International Year of Astronomy with 11 celestially-framed film showcases designed to precede weekly public stargazing opportunities at the observatory.

The film series kicks off Wednesday (June 3) with the 1986 Disney classic Flight of the Navigator, the tale of a 12-year-old boy who awakens after being knocked unconscious only to find that he hasn’t aged after being missing for eight years. Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman) provides the voice of MAX, the journey’s facilitating spaceship, and Sarah Jessica Parker is on-screen in one of her earliest film roles.

The free films and popcorn will be offered each Wednesday from 7:30-9:30 p.m. in Room 119, Swain Hall West, and will be followed by public nights of stargazing (10 p.m. to midnight) at the nearby Kirkwood Observatory. During June the easiest planet to observe will be Saturn, the brightest object in the constellation Leo the Lion. Saturn is high in the sky at sunset and remains above the horizon until midnight.

Astronomy Department chair Caty Pilachowski said the movie nights are part of an IU celebration for IYA that also includes live presentations by internationally recognized astronomers, a high school young astronomer contest and a series of family workshops. Pilachowski said the recent recognition from the city-county convention and visitors bureau noting the observatory as a top regional attraction confirmed the success of the department’s ongoing outreach.

“We were so pleased to be recognized by the Bloomington-Monroe Convention and Visitor’s Bureau,” she said of the May 14 awards ceremony. “Kirkwood Observatory provides a wonderful connection between the campus and the community. I’m especially proud of our graduate students, who work so hard to make sure every visitor to the observatory has a great experience.”

Rounding out the June slate of films are the visually-stunning 2008 historical documentary 400 Years of the Telescope: A Journey of Science, Technology and Thought (June 10), followed by Sam Neill as an American astronomer dealing with Australian sheepherders and one of the world’s largest radio telescopes in the comedy The Dish (June 17), and finally, the 60-minute documentary From Earth to the Moon, which will also include a screening of the 1953 cartoon classic Duck Dodgers in the 24-1/2th Century, in which characters Daffy Duck and Porky Pig travel to Planet X in search of Illudium Phosdex, the shaving cream atom (June 24).

To review a complete schedule of this summer’s International Year of Astronomy movies, a list that includes “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and James Bond’s “Moonraker,” visit the IYA Movie Lineup.

For a complete open house schedule for nighttime stargazing visit the Kirkwood Observatory schedule, and to hear updated weather conditions or to learn about weather-related closings, call the observatory hotline at 812-855-7736.

For more information, please contact Steve Chaplin, University Communications, at 812-856-1896 or [email protected].

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