Monday, March 31, 2008

Asteroids deadly impact, National Geographics

Those who like to keep their eyes on the sky will appreciate this documentary, which follows geologist Eugene Shoemaker, who as the chief lunar scientist for NASA, trained the astronauts before the moon landings at the nearly mile-wide Meteor Crater near Flagstaff, Arizona. With his wife Carolyn, and collaborator David Levy, Shoemaker discovered Shoemaker-Levy 9, in March of 1993, the meteor that impacted with Jupiter in July of '94, and was so well recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope. Shoemaker likens meteors to "space bullets," and gives us with his riffle, a miniature version of what happens upon impact. Shoemaker has discovered hundreds of asteroids and comets, and "helped transform the map of the sky," and also has an immensely likable personality, making this film enjoyable as well as educational.

Also interviewed are David Morrison of NASA, who claims "if it happened to the dinosaurs it can happen to us," and astronaut/geologist Dr. Jack Schmitt. There's a scene where Eugene and Carolyn visit the Ries Basin in Germany, where the town of Nordlinger is built within a crater, and marvel at the "large geologic sample," St. George's Cathedral, built with local stone that includes melted glass, the result of asteroidal impact. Other craters described are in Tunguska, Siberia, where in 1908 the trees were flattened for miles, and the Chicxulub crater within the peninsula of Yucatan, which occurred 65 million years ago, and coincides with the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Another reason to enjoy this documentary is its narration, by composer, actor and guitarist extraordinaire Robbie Robertson, whose mellow, beautiful voice is music to my ears. Very well written and directed by Eitan Weinreich, with a good score by Mark Adler, the total running time is 60 minutes.

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