To the Edge of the Universe … And Beyond?

I [heart] space, and I love animation. So I was tickled green to find out that NGC has put together what amounts to an animated feature-length tour of the cosmos.

(Check out an <a href="“>interactive built for the show, noting that it requires the latest version of Flash to work right.)

The new special, which premieres on the Channel on Sunday at 8 p.m., is pretty unique, as it’s filmed in one long camera shot that starts on an Earth beach and weaves through the solar system, out into the galaxy, and deep into the farthest reaches of space.

Anyone who’s seen a behind-the-scenes on the making of a Disney movie should have a rough idea how this new film was created.

The director, a veteran science documentarian, sat down with producers and graphic artists to storyboard the whole trip.

The graphics folks then created an entirely computer-generated version of the universe based on NASA and other space agency images that resemble the striking artist’s conceptions that accompany most news stories about astronomy and astrophysics.


A scene from the film shows a black hole siphoning matter from a nearby star

—Image courtesy Red Vision/C4 Studios/Pioneer Productions

The end result is kind of as if NASA built an uber-spacecraft with infinite fuel and faster-then-light propulsion that could survive in almost any environment—from the lead-melting heat on Venus to the achingly cold but serene stretches of intergalactic space—and sent it out to skitter around the universe with a video camera mounted on its face. Neat.

Ironically, I do not get the NG Channel at home, so will have to rely on the kindness of friends with better cable tiers to check this puppy out.

In the meanwhile, I and anyone who cares to join me can watch teaser videos, read blog posts from the show’s producers, and page through production stills here.

Fingers crossed that the show’s science lives up to the coolness of its concept. And fingers double-crossed that shows like these promote NatGeo’s place among the astronomy-covering media.

I hear with more frequency than I like from folks outside the organization that they don’t associate NatGeo with space. Egypt and other archeaology sources, of course. Dinos, without a doubt. Wildlife, environment, and cultural conservation, all goes without saying. But for some reason NG and space don’t click for very many people.

I ask you, why?

We have a long history with space coverage—NASA probes, manned space flight, space weather, dark matter, and more have all been featured regularly in our books, magazines, TV shows, and the Web site.

Most recently National Geographic magazine put out a whole special issue on space with a forward by Ray Bradbury, and the online unit had some killer interactives on Sputnik and the 50th anniversary of the space race.

Heck, you’re reading this spacey blog, right? Right?

Human Journey