A journey through 400 years of history of solar astronomy in Europe, from Galileo to several state-of-the-art observatories across Europe. A path that leads to the next step of the journey: the European Solar Telescope, the largest instrument ever designed on the old continent.
‘Reaching for the Sun’ is a 52-minute television documentary that showcases major European solar telescopes, shedding light on fundamental solar physics concepts and significant advances made by these observatories.
The documentary introduces the European Solar Telescope (EST) and the innovative science it will bring, explaining why such a significant infrastructure is necessary for the European solar physics community. It is a highly impactful activity that enables the EST project to reach a much broader audience than would be possible through other channels.
Since those peculiar spots that the early observers of the Sun detected with their rudimentary telescopes, astronomers have taken colossal strides in observing and researching the star around which we orbit.
This has required the development of new and more powerful telescopes, searching for locations with the best possible observing conditions, and the creation and refinement of new instrumentation to dissect the solar light in greater detail.
'Reaching for the Sun' takes the viewer on a journey not only historically, but also geographically, through some of the different solar telescopes that humanity has constructed in Europe.
The documentary itself was filmed between May and June 2018 using professional cinema cameras and drones. These tools were employed to capture aerial views of the telescopes in operation at the Teide Observatory (Spain), the Einstein Tower in Potsdam (Germany), the Pic du Midi Observatory (France), and the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (Spain). The drone sequences are integrated into the documentary to showcase the European facilities used for solar research from a fresh perspective.
This resource enhances the overall aesthetics of the work and adds a new dimension to the film.
Moreover, through artistic animations specially created for this documentary, the aim was to introduce the history of significant figures in the field of Solar Physics. These illustrations were animated and integrated into the footage. They depict the early studies of sunspots, the dispersion of light using spectrometers, the observation of spectral lines in the solar spectrum, the discovery of magnetic fields in sunspots, and the Carrington event of 1859, one of the strongest recorded solar storms.
In 1610, the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei observes the Sun daily through a telescope he made himself.
Joseph von Fraunhofer and Jules Janssen
In 1814, Joseph von Fraunhofer dispersed sunlight with an instrument he had invented: the spectroscope.
In 1908, the American astronomer George Ellery Hale observed the Sun with a large spectrograph he had just designed and built.
The 'Carrington event' was one of the most intense solar storms ever recorded. But this was not an unusual event for our star ... quite the opposite.
The infographics and animations are essential in any scientific audiovisual material. In this regard, we have an absolutely spectacular library of astronomical resources on the Sun, consisting of real images depicting much of solar phenomenology. Similarly, there is top-notch 3D infographic material available on the EST. We have also created specific 3D infographics synchronized with the scientists’ explanations about the internal structure of the Sun, its various layers within the solar atmosphere, convection, and the magnetic configuration of sunspots. These impressive videos complement the provided information.
This documentary portrays science for what it is: a historical process, the sum of many individual wills and efforts, all of them essential to continue this solar adventure and gain a better understanding of how the star is, to which our destiny is inevitably tied. The narrative of the documentary is divided into six chapters or thematic blocks.
A crew of 6 people visited 12 telescopes and institutions across Europe, interviewing 17 researchers from the PRE-EST consortium, scientists who explain the history and the science behind solar research. Unique locations were chosen for this filming, such as the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Rome, Italy), where the original documents from Galileo are kept.
Do you want to get an idea of what the days of shooting behind the scenes were like? Below are some images taken during the filming.