We’re talking with Dan Koehler from Interstellar Studios; Executive Producer for the upcoming PBS Documentary Special 400 Years of the Telescope: A Journey of Science, Technology and Thought, currently scheduled for the national premier on April 10, 2009. 400 Years of the Telescope is the first science documentary to be filmed in 4K digital technology, and has been selected as the official product of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. (Check your local listings so you don’t miss this must see PBS event.)
Q: The “Roswell” T-shirt you’re wearing gives me a big laugh. As they say, “the truth is out there” and we all want to know… is it?
A: Well, just stop and think. Our world is filled with astronomers with every means of telescope you can possibly imagine; many deep space telescopes reaching out way beyond Galileo’s imagination, let alone our own imaginations 400 years later. Advancements are enormous with the multi-deep space telescopes being designed and created at the Pasadena JPL/NASA laboratories. So if you take all that into consideration, the efforts of the millions of professional eyes glued to the skies, if there were space crafts from other worlds flying around up there, wouldn’t you think one credible person would have noticed? Every day people walk around and never look up, and then suddenly someone looks up into the sky and says. “Look, a UFO from outer space!” Where’s the logic? That’s why I get such a kick out of my “Roswell” T-shirt.
Q: What was your influence to create this documentary; the inspiration?
A: We share a love of astronomy, and 2009 being an historic anniversary of the telescope, it seemed to be a great opportunity to create a film that would be universal. When Galileo turned his telescope to the heavens, he opened the world’s eyes. His impact was indeed profound and we wanted to begin there and show the advancements, [which is]no small task.
Q: How was that accomplished?
A: That would take more time than you probably have copy space, but basically we set out to assemble the best that astronomy and cosmology had to offer, virtually a “who’s who” of astronomy. Kris began writing and assembling his team. Our production team began to grow, and interviews took shape. After a while, a production takes on a life of its own; it feels right and you just go with it.
Q: Tell me about the music; it swept me in right from the beginning.
A: The music was composed by Mark Slater and recorded under his direction with the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios. We also have a companion Planetarium Program coinciding with 400 Years called Two Small Pieces of Glass: The Amazing Telescope which uses full-dome imagery to present our story of the telescope, and the astronomers who used them to make their dramatic discoveries. All skies and full-dome video will transport the planetarium audiences to some of the largest observatories and places of historical significance in the world. The adaptation of the score to enhance the planetarium programs is extremely moving.
Q: This is such an interesting and educational project, have you thought of moving into the classrooms?
A: Actually there will be an official companion book of the PBS telecast which will be available to everyone as well as the documentary DVD and original score CD. In addition, Interstellar Studios will sponsor educational astronomical events every day during the school year, which will be geared to kids ages 5 to 12. Web-based lectures will be featured from noted astronomers and cosmologists.
Q: To wrap us up, how would you finalize our interview?
A: Watch our program and learn more by reading the companion book. Check out one of our planetarium shows and then just go outside and “look up.” Enjoy the wonderment in your children’s eyes.
To learn more about our friend Dan Koehler and where to find your own copy of 400 Years of the Telescope, please visit www.40Oyears.org. That’s a Wrap!