2017 REU Students Lightning Talks

Presented by the SETI Institute and SRI, this SETI Talks event will feature the SETI Institute's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Class of 2017. The event will be held on Wednesday, August 16, 7:00 – 8:00 PM at the SRI International Conference Center in Menlo Park.

Seeing Pluto With Your Own Eyes From Your Backyard With Unistellar's eVscope


By Franck Marchis, Senior Researcher and Chair of the Exoplanet Group at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute

One of the biggest challenges in popular astronomy is finding specific objects in the night sky. Most nebulae, galaxies, and asteroids are invisible to the naked eye, and locating them in the immense vastness of space has frustrated people for centuries.

That’s why most amateur astronomers follow a common but frustrating path. They buy a telescope, look at the moon, a few bright stars, and five planets—and then just give up. After only a few months of use, those telescopes go up for sale on eBay or into the basement.

Unistellar is determined to change this. Our new eVscope’s Autonomous Field Detection (AFD) feature will allow novice astronomers to find noteworthy celestial objects without performing complicated alignment procedures. Thanks to AFD’s intelligent pointing and tracking, astronomers can spend more time observing and less time wondering what they’re looking at. You’ll always know exactly what you’re seeing.

You’ll know because the telescope will highlight and an object of interest and show important information about it. Here’s an example. This photo was taken by a smartphone held up to the eyepiece and clearly shows Pluto, identified and labeled using AFD. That little speck of light is indeed the tiny (2,300-km wide) dwarf planet located 4.9 billion km away from Earth. We should mention that this image was taken under far from ideal conditions: from downtown Marseille (a city of about a million people), at a very low elevation (20 degrees), and through a fence.

Read the full article at http://cosmicdiary.org/fmarchis/2017/09/17/seeing-pluto-with-your-own-ey...

Melrae Pictures Producing 360 VR Eclipse Experience -- SETI Institute Proud to Participate

September 19, 2017, Mountain View, CA – Founder/Director Melissa Butts of Melrae Pictures is producing a one-of-a-kind virtual reality (VR) documentary about last month’s incredible total eclipse of the Sun, “The Great American Eclipse 360.” The SETI Institute has been proud to take part, connecting the production with sponsors – Nokia for cameras and 3D Paint/FX for post-production. Lockheed Martin is also a sponsor and American Airlines is the Official Travel Provider.

Melrae Pictures consulted with subject matter experts from NASA's Ames Research Center  in Silicon Valley in order to leverage data collected during the eclipse with state of the art VR technology on multiple suborbital platforms under significantly low-light conditions.  Filmed with powerful 4K 360 cameras, the documentary will track the eclipse from Salem, Oregon, using ground cameras, through Nebraska, where cameras on board special research balloons will capture the eclipse at an altitude of 100,000 feet, to drone cameras flying through Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and Moon National Park in Idaho.

“By using OZO VR technologies, we are bringing together people around the world who might not otherwise be able to experience this once in a lifetime event,” said Csilla Kozma, Head of Content Relation, Nokia Technologies. “This eclipse video and VR experience will be truly exceptional, as we were also able to work with a NASA heliophysicist for an in-depth explanation and commentary of the occurrence.”

“The eclipse was a particularly special event for our heliophysics team, who have spent their careers staring at the sun through advanced satellite instruments in orbit,” said Scott Fouse, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Lab. “We hope this innovative film captures the majesty of the eclipse for viewers everywhere, and encourages people to learn more about the amazing science behind our nearest and favorite star.”

The documentary will be made available to science museums and schools via Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR, as well as through social media apps. 

“To see a total solar eclipse is an intensely emotional experience and memory for a lifetime,” said director/producer Melissa Butts. “For those that can’t get to the path, this 360 film will be just the ticket to feel the full sensory experience of this stunning event. For those who do see the eclipse it will be an awesome reminder of how they felt that day conjuring beautifully positive feelings of one of nature’s most rare phenomena, a total solar eclipse.” 

“Only 5% of the US population was in the region of Totality for the August 21st eclipse,” said Bill Diamond, CEO of the SETI Institute. “The difference between even 95% coverage and totality is literally night and day. The experience of witnessing a total eclipse is difficult to put in words, but it’s one of nature’s more awe-inspiring events. We are excited to be even a small part of this wonderful film project, bringing the complete wonder of a total eclipse to an immersive experience that everyone can enjoy.”

The film is in post-production. To find out how to see this documentary go to Facebook: https://tinyurl.com/y82oxnyl.

About Melrae Pictures

Melrae Pictures is led by Melissa Butts an award-winning visual storyteller and McKnight Media Artist Fellow who blends a passion for bringing inspirational innovation stories to life while connecting to diverse global audiences. Melissa has created powerfully immersive experiences for distribution in museums worldwide in 3D/2D digital, giant screen, and various digital formats. “The Great American Eclipse 360” is one of several immersive titles on space science including “Space Junk 3D”, “3D Sun”, and (Twist Films) “Mars 3D” and “Future Frontiers: Mars”. 


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