Starmus Day 1 highlights

Posted by David Eicher
on Monday, June 26, 2017

Charlie Duke explains what it’s like to explore the lunar surface as he describes Apollo 16, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 18, 2017.

Starmus IV, our fourth incarnation of the Starmus Festival, is history. The event took place June 18–23, 2017, in Trondheim, Norway. We had record crowds with 2,500 in attendance and thousands more seeing Starmus related exhibits and events throughout the city of Trondheim. I know that an average of 18,000 people watched the livestream. I think it’s fair to say it was the most amazing science festival put on thus far, and I’ll be summarizing events that occurred during the week over the next few days. As anyone who was there knows, Starmus went from morning through well after midnight each day, allowing no time to catch breath, process photos, write blogs, etc. It was a relentless pace. Many thanks as always to the Festival’s founder and director, Garik Israelian, and to everyone associated with the NTNU in Trondheim. This wonderful educational institution placed its weight behind the event and ensured it as a great success. 

Dave takes the stage to open the 2017 Starmus Festival and explains why he’s wearing such informal clothes (a delayed bag), Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 18, 2017.

On Sunday, I was slated to open the Festival as the first day’s host. But my primary bag wound up traveling no further than Oslo. So I opened the Festival with an apology about my informal dress, elicited applause and laughs from the crowd, and many later comments about how they liked the jeans. Ah well. My first task was to introduce Charlie Duke, who delivered a sensational talk about the Apollo 16 expeditions to various lunar sites and the science he and John Young accomplished. What a way to get the audience going! 

Dave introduces Charlie Duke, Apollo 16 astronaut and the youngest man to walk on the Moon, as he describes science from Apollo 16, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 18, 2017.

Following Charlie was one of the greats of the world of exoplanets, Michel Mayor. In 1995 Professor Mayor discovered the first exoplanet orbiting a sunlike star in 51 Pegasi b. This really ushered in a flood of exoplanetary discoveries that continues today. 

Professor Michel Mayor describes his groundbreaking research on exoplanets, including the discovery of 51 Pegasi b, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 18, 2017.

Continuing on the exoplanet theme, I next had the great joy of introducing a friend, Sara Seager of MIT. Sara spoke eloquently about her involvement in exoplanetary research, the upcoming TESS mission, and her quest to study the atmosphere of an earthlike exoplanet. 

Sara Seager of MIT describes the future of exoplanet research, including TESS and the quest to study exoplanetary atmospheres, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 18, 2017.

Next, we took a turn toward the really exotic. One of the founders of the field of astrobiology, Lynn Rothschild of the NASA Ames Research Center, described the most extreme environments where alien life might be found. 

Lynn Rothschild of NASA-Ames, one of the founders of the field of astrobiology, details the search for life in the universe, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 18, 2017.

Next, Sandy Magnus, a retired astronaut who flew on space shuttle missions (including the last one) and spent considerable time on the International Space Station, brought an astronaut-explorer’s perspective to our struggle here on Earth. 

Sandra Magnus describes her experiences as a shuttle and International Space Station astronaut, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 18, 2017.

And the day wasn’t over yet. The master of the sonic spaceship guitar, Steve Vai, a friend of Festival Board member Brian May, discussed creative perspectives we all have as scientists and artists. 

The incredibly talented guitarist Steve Vai talks about how we think creatively, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 18, 2017.

Following Steve’s talk, we had a special program with the one and only David Zambuka, magician and entertainer, who wowed the crowds last year with a presentation centered on Stephen Hawking. This time he had four of us (Steve Vai, myself, Astronomy Now Publisher Steve Young, and astronomer and broadcaster Jim Al-Kalili) draw aliens as he guessed, blindly, who drew each depiction. David is really a master of illusion and we’re lucky to have him involved as the Festival. 

The great science comedian David Zambuka helps us contemplate the meaning of aliens, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 18, 2017.

David Zambuka puts us through the grinder as we attempt to depict aliens, l. to r.: Jim Al-Khalili, Steve Young, Dave Eicher, and Steve Vai, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 18, 2017.

To round out the day, we were treated to Nobel Prize winning physicist and chemist Stefan Hell, who told us about his amazing optical microscopy. 

Stefan Hell describes his Nobel-Prize-winning research on fluorescence microscopy, Spektrum Hall, Trondheim, Norway, June 18, 2017.

It was truly an incredible day, and things had only just begun. Stay tuned for more updates. 

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