June 19, 2008
Adler’s ‘Cosmic Collisions’ Intense
By Glenn Jeffers, Chicago Tribune
Jun. 19--There's something comforting about the low timbre of Robert Redford's voice. It makes planetary destruction seem less catastrophic.You certainly feel the devastation in "Cosmic Collisions," a new film narrated by the award-winning actor/director now playing in the Adler Planetarium's StarRider Theater. The movie, which runs about 30 minutes, tells an explosive story, one that demolishes Earth, pulls apart the Milky Way and bombards us with so much solar radiation we should all glow in the dark.
Don't worry. Everything's fine, Redford assures.
Most of these disasters occurred billions of years ago--except for the sun stuff, which happens every day--when the solar system was still forming. A Mars-size object crashes into a young and still molten "Proto Earth," shattering it. The pieces reform into Earth we know today and a smaller satellite we call the Moon.
Millions of years later, a collision with a miles-long meteor incinerates Earth's surface, causing an Ice Age. That environmental schism, says the film, eventually led to life as we know it today.
The film engrosses the audience with computer-generated simulations of these spectacles, pulling them as close to the sun as possible, thanks to some NASA satellite imagery, before zooming out far past the Milky Way to show an inevitable merging with our closest galactic neighbor, Andromeda.
Again, nothing to fret about. That's millions of years away.
It also helps that Alder is playing the film inside the StarRider, one of two full-size planetarium theaters inside the museum. Completely digital, the StarRider's dome screen brings both the night sky and the vastness of space to audiences in sharp clarity. We can see the blustery streams of charged particles bounce off the sun, creating nuclear fusion and solar winds. We can see the kaleidoscope of colors those particles make when trapped in Earth's magnetic field, creating the Northern Lights.
The audience absorbs so much information during "Cosmic Collisions," learns how much of our existence was born out of destruction and mayhem, that the half-hour format seems a little jarring. At the end of the film, you also feel like taking a minute to reflect on all this. A cup of water would be nice too.
But the ushers have a schedule to keep, and there's another group waiting to have its collective mind blown to bits.
'Cosmic Collisions' Where: Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, 312-922-7827, www.adlerplanetarium.org.
Show times: 10:45 a.m., 12:15, 1:45 and 4 p.m.
Cost: Adults $10-$23, Kids (4-17) $6-$19, Seniors (65 and older) $8-$21.
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