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Press Release & Background Material for Cosmic Collisions—A Spectacular New Digital Space Show— Crashes Into the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center’s Eugene Heikoff and Marilyn Jacobs Heikoff Dome Theater on Saturday, January 19!

Narrated by Academy Award®-Winner Robert Redford and Featuring Data and Simulations by NASA, Museum Astrophysicists and Scientists Around the World Spectacular Images of Planetary Impacts and Celestial Smash-Ups!

December 13, 2012

Cosmic Collisions logo

Cosmic Collisions logo


Media Contact: Susan Chicoine

619-685-5743 / 619-325-9416




San Diego CA–December 10, 2012 —A spectacular immersive digital theater experience, Cosmic Collisions, narrated by award-winning actor, director and producer Robert Redford, crashes into the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center’s Eugene Heikoff and Marilyn Jacobs Heikoff Dome Theater on Saturday, January 19! Featuring stunning images from space and breathtaking visualizations based on cutting-edge scientific data, the dazzling new Cosmic Collisions reveals the unimaginable, explosive encounters that shaped our solar system, changed the course of life on Earth and continue to transform our galaxy and dynamic universe.


From subatomic particles to the largest galaxies, cosmic collisions are a universal force of nature. Creative and also destructive, dynamic and dazzling, collisions have resulted in many things we take for granted—the luminescent Moon, the Sun’s warmth and light, our changing seasons and waves washing up on a sandy shore. They’ve ended the age of dinosaurs and changed the very map of the cosmos, reforming galaxies and giving birth to new stars and new worlds. Cosmic Collisions provides an unprecedented and extraordinary view of these events—both catastrophic and constructive—that have shaped our world and our universe.


Cosmic Collisions launches visitors on a thrilling trip through space and time—well beyond the calm face of the night sky—to explore cosmic collisions, hypersonic impacts that drive the dynamic and continuing evolution of the universe. Groundbreaking scientific simulations and visualizations based on cutting-edge research developed by American Museum of Natural History astrophysicists, scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other international colleagues explore the full range of space collisions, past, present and future.


Viewers will witness the violent face of our Sun, imaged by NASA satellites, that produces enormous ejections of material from our star toward our planet. The resulting subatomic clashes, as streams of charged particles from the Sun strike the Earth's magnetic field, produce the eerie glow of the aurora borealis and the aurora australis. Cosmic Collisions also shows the creation of our Moon some five billion years ago when a wandering planetoid struck Earth; the violent meeting of two stars at the edge of the galaxy; and the future collision of our Milky Way galaxy with our closest neighbor, the Andromeda spiral galaxy, a cosmic crash that will produce a new giant elliptical galaxy billions of years from now.


Audiences will feel the ground shake beneath them as they experience a thrilling recreation of the meteorite impact that hastened the end of the age of dinosaurs 65 million years ago and cleared the way for mammals like us to thrive. Another dramatic sequence highlights a frightening future scenario where humanity desperately attempts to divert the path of an oncoming "doomsday" asteroid headed on a collision course with Earth.


An engrossing, immersive digital theater experience created by the American Museum of Natural History visualization and production experts with the cooperation of NASA and more than 25 leading scientists from the United States and abroad, Cosmic Collisions launches visitors on an awe-inspiring trip through space and time. The show focuses on the full range of collisions, from catastrophic planetary impacts and the merging of massive galaxies to the continual explosions occurring in the center of the Sun and the incessant barrage of small ionized particles in the solar wind ricocheting off Earth’s magnetic field creating other-worldly conditions called “space weather.” Cosmic Collisions brings together the visionary genius of scientists and the insatiable curiosity of explorers to shed light on the universe’s most complex and mysterious processes. Take the journey into deep space to learn and be enriched by this unique experience!


Cosmic Collisions was developed by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in

collaboration with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science; GOTO, Inc., Tokyo, Japan; and the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, China. Cosmic Collisions was created by the American Museum of Natural History with the major support and partnership of the Heliophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and was made possible with the generous support of CIT.


Cosmic Collisions was written by Stephanie Abrams, award-winning writer and director of

documentaries for PBS and USA Networks, and Emmy Award-winner Louise A. Gikow, with music by renowned Brazilian pianist and composer Marcelo Zarvos and award-winning composer Robert Miller.


Cosmic Collisions opens Saturday, January 19, 2013, and will run in an open-ended engagement. The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center Heikoff Dome Theater is located at 1875 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101. Giant Dome Screen Theater admission (1 film + access to all exhibit galleries): Adults $15.75; Children $12.75; Seniors $12.75. The Fleet’s normal hours are Monday–Thursday 10AM–5PM, Friday & Saturday: 10AM– 7PM, and Sunday: 10AM–6PM. For information on tickets and show times, call (619) 238-1233 or visit our website at http://www.rhfleet.org/site/imax/index.cfm.

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Press Releases, Backgrounders and Photo Captions:  http://www.rhfleet.org/press-room

High-Resolution Photographs for all RH FLEET Exhibits and Giant Dome Theatre Shows: http://www.rhfleet.org/press-room/images

B-roll of Giant Dome Theatre Shows & production footage of exhibits and galleries on the

Fleet Media DropBox: http://www.dropbox.com; Click on sign in; email  reubenfleet@gmail.com; password pr1973media; "RHF Public Relations" folder.



If you would like complimentary tickets to see this or any IMAX film or digital show or visit the exhibitions, please contact Susan Chicoine directly at schicoine@rhfleet.org/619 685-5743/619 325-9416.  Let me know what date and how many, and I will leave passes for you at the will call window.



New Discoveries, the Latest Research and Stunning Observations from Space—

The Foundation of Cosmic Collisions


Cosmic Collisions presents a view of the cosmos that is radically different from our everyday experience watching the peaceful night sky. Collisions are commonplace occurrences in space and are currently understood by scientists as a key mechanism in the evolution of the universe. They are the spectacular and inevitable result of gravity pulling together objects such as planets, stars and galaxies, which are in constant motion through space. For the first time, Cosmic Collisions re-creates tremendous encounters that are usually invisible to us, either because they unfold over incredibly vast expanses of time and space, spanning billions of years and trillions of miles (as in the clash of galaxies), or because they occur almost instantaneously on a subatomic scale (as in the collision of protons in the heart of the Sun).


“Collisions, whether they are infinitesimal or massive, drive the evolution of cosmic objects in much the same way as natural selection or the collision of energetic particles with DNA drives the evolution of species,” says Michael M. Shara, Curator of Astrophysics in the Museum’s Division of Physical Sciences and curator of the Cosmic Collisions show.


Cosmic Collisions—A Closer Look

Cosmic Collisions starts quietly: a deceptively peaceful night sky with stars covers the dome screen, but viewers soon encounter a comet approaching Earth. The comet misses, but bits of rock from the comet’s tail, called meteoroids, burn up spectacularly and harmlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere.


The audience is then transported back in time to witness a wandering planet-sized object explosively crashing into the young Earth about 4.5 billion years ago. Soon, in the aftermath of the collision, the swirling mass of molten debris that circles Earth starts to coalesce while narrator Robert Redford explains that we are witnessing the birth of our own Moon, which took place over a single month, according to the latest thinking and simulations. This major milestone in our planet’s history was responsible for the tilt of Earth’s axis and therefore, our seasons. The Moon’s gravitational pull causes the ebb and flow of the ocean’s tides.



Cosmic Collisions takes visitors back in time through the re-creation of a catastrophic event that changed the course of life on Earth. Using data from Los Alamos National Laboratory, viewers experience the most immersive simulation ever produced of another enormous meteorite impact that heated the Earth’s atmosphere in a flaming shroud and hastened the end of the age of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The ensuing destruction and darkness, combined with the subsequent volcanic eruptions and changing sea levels, obliterated almost three-quarters of all life on Earth. But the impact also cleared the way for mammals like humans to thrive.


But can such a catastrophic event like this happen again? The show visualizes a possible future scenario that has frequently been the subject of news stories, novels, and blockbuster movies—an apocalyptic impact of Earth with a large asteroid.


The show then takes the audience outside Earth’s orbit, on a soaring journey to the outskirts of the Milky Way to witness the densely packed stars in a distant globular cluster. Unlike most of space where there are great distances between objects, the stars in these clusters are crammed together, making collisions more likely. Viewers witness how gravity brings two small stars smashing together to form a larger, rejuvenated star—a rare cosmic event that even in the heart of a globular cluster occurs only once every hundred thousand years.

Next, shifting billions of years into the future, the show predicts an encounter of staggering proportions as two galaxies collide. Our Milky Way galaxy runs headlong into its closest neighbor, the Andromeda spiral galaxy, a cosmic merging that produces a new giant elliptical galaxy. As Redford narrates, “Stars and planets in these galaxies won’t actually collide. They’re much too far apart. Scientists think they’ll simply slide past one another.”


Cosmic Collisions concludes by speculating on humanity’s future role in the universe, not as passive voyagers on a brief journey, but as active explorers driven by boundless curiosity to understand the ever-changing nature of the cosmos.


Cosmic Collisions Partners and Technology

A complex merger of cutting-edge astrophysics research and state-of-the-art supercomputing expertise

makes it possible for Cosmic Collisions to transport audiences through time and space to view the evolving universe. To perform the enormously complex calculations and render the scenes of interstellar collisions, the show’s production team relied on an array of graphic workstations, a Linux-based rendering cluster with 100 processors to create the graphic images and used a multichannel digital dailies system donated by the NVIDIA corporation to preview the high-resolution graphic images on the planetarium dome. The show’s production team also made extensive use of a virtual map of billions of stars and galaxies called the Digital Universe, created at the American Museum of Natural History with support from NASA. It began as the most comprehensive scientifically accurate three-dimensional map of the Milky Way Galaxy and has grown to become a virtual universe, commensurate with available data, containing millions of objects in the near and distant universe.


The Narrator

One of Hollywood’s most popular box office stars, Robert Redford has garnered innumerable awards,

including the Kennedy Center Honors, which recognizes his contributions to American culture. Mr. Redford founded the nonprofit Sundance Institute in 1981 and is an active promoter and supporter of

independent filmmakers in the United States. The Sundance Film Festival has become one of the world’s premier venues for new independent films. Mr. Redford has starred in more than 30 films, including The Sting, The Way We Were, All the President’s Men and The Natural. Mr. Redford won the Academy Award® for Best Director for Ordinary People in 1980. He has since directed The Milagro Beanfield War, A River Runs through It, Quiz Show and others.




The Script

Cosmic Collisions was written by Stephanie Abrams, award-winning writer and director of documentaries for PBS and the SciFi Channel, and Emmy award-winner Louise A. Gikow.  Ms. Abrams began her career at ABC News in New York, working with the late renowned science editor Jules Bergman. Her career has spanned television venues, including several award-winning documentaries, series and one-hour television specials.  Ms. Gikow began her career as editorial assistant and became senior copy editor at National Lampoon magazine. She is an Emmy award-winning author/composer of more than 150 scripts, books and songs for kids and adults, including scripts for Between the Lions, Cyberchase, Peep, Oobi and Sesame Workshop.


The Score

Brazilian pianist and composer Marcelo Zarvos has written music for film, television, dance, theater and

the concert stage. Among his film scores are The Door in the Floor, Strangers with Candy, Kissing Jessica Stein and Hollywoodland starring Adrian Brody and Ben Affleck.

Robert Miller’s works have been performed by orchestras nationwide, and he is considered to be in the top echelon of composers working in television and commercials. His film projects include the feature documentary, Why We Fight, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2005; Vuilo; Red Doors; and Runaway. Mr. Miller’s music was produced by Emmy award-winning composer Jon Silbermann, founder of JSM music.


Production Team

The production team for Cosmic Collisions includes science visualizers, digital artists, producers, engineers, sound designers, educators and more. The Executive Producer is Anthony Braun, whose group was headed by Visualization Director Carter Emmart and Producer Christopher Scollard. The Director of Rose Center Engineering is Benjy Bernhardt.


American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is one of the world’s preeminent scientific, educational and cultural institutions. Since its founding in 1869, the Museum has advanced its global mission to explore and interpret human cultures and the natural world through a wide-reaching program of scientific research, education and exhibitions. The Museum houses 45 permanent exhibition halls, state-of-the-art research laboratories, one of the largest natural history libraries in the Western Hemisphere and a permanent collection of more than 30 million specimens and cultural artifacts. With a scientific staff of more than 200, the Museum supports research divisions in Anthropology, Paleontology, Invertebrate and Vertebrate Zoology and the Physical Sciences.


NASA Heliophysics Division

NASA’s goal for future research and exploration within its Heliophysics Division is to observe and understand the complex phenomena associated with space weather by studying the Sun, the heliosphere and planetary environments as a single, interconnected system. To achieve this, NASA will open the frontier to space weather prediction by studying and understanding the fundamental physical processes of the space environment—from the Sun to Earth to other planets and beyond to the interstellar medium. At the same time, the Heliophysics Division seeks to understand our home in space—how society, technology and our planet’s habitability are affected by solar variability and its interactions with planetary magnetic fields and atmospheres. Understanding this will represent not only a grand intellectual accomplishment for our time, it will also provide knowledge and predictive capabilities essential to future human and robotic exploration of space and will serve key societal objectives in important ways.


The Denver Museum of Nature & Science

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS) inspires curiosity and excites minds of all ages through scientific discovery and the presentation and preservation of the world’s unique treasures. DMNS has expertise and provides programming in six main areas: anthropology, geology, health science, paleontology, space science and zoology. Founded in 1900, DMNS opened to the public in 1908. Over the years, the Museum has expanded along with its exhibitions, programs, research, and collections, offering new opportunities for discovery.


GOTO, Inc.

GOTO Inc. is the world’s largest provider of planetarium systems, program software and maintenance

services. With headquarters outside Tokyo, Japan, the company has been manufacturing telescopes and

planetarium projectors since 1926. GOTO introduced the world’s first real-time-rendering, color, all-dome video system, VIRTUARIUM, in 1996. Today, GOTO continues to set the standard in technological

innovation with VIRTUARIUM II video systems, custom-designed optics for state-of-the-art video projectors, and GOTO HYBRID planetarium systems that combine the best of digital and optical projection technologies.


Shanghai Science & Technology Museum

Shanghai Science & Technology Museum (SSTM) is one of the largest comprehensive science museums in China and the world. Taking “Nature, Mankind, Science and Technology” as its theme, SSTM applies a variety of modern display methods to provide its visitors an interactive and “edutainment” environment to experience the magic of science. The museum comprises 15 permanent themed exhibition halls and a “Science Film City” that includes four special cinemas. The museum’s exhibitions cover a wide variety of academic areas, from ancient Chinese science to the most cutting-edge technology.


About the Fleet Science Center:

The Fleet Science Center connects people of all ages to the possibilities and power of science to create a better future. At the science center, you can explore and investigate more than 100 interactive exhibits that pique your curiosity and become immersed in an IMAX film adventure that shows the wonders of the planet--and beyond--in the Eugene Heikoff and Marilyn Jacobs Heikoff Giant Dome Theater. For young science enthusiasts, the Fleet offers science workshops both at the Fleet and at schools throughout San Diego County. For adults, we offer events like Suds & Science and Two Scientists Walk Into a Bar™ at locations all over San Diego. We support communities by leveraging science resources to meet local needs. Teachers are encouraged to join our Teacher Partner Program and take advantage of our professional development opportunities. Additionally, at the Fleet Science Center, visitors will find unique educational toys and games, books, IMAX DVDs and more in the North Star Science Store, and pizzas, sandwiches, salads and healthy treats in our Craveology cafe. Located in Balboa Park, at 1875 El Prado, two blocks south of the San Diego Zoo on Park Blvd., the Fleet is San Diego's science center. Science starts here and opens a world of possibility. For information regarding current admission prices, visit our website at fleetscience.org.
About Balboa Park:
Located near downtown San Diego, Balboa Park is the largest urbancultural park in the United States. First established by the City of San Diego in 1868, it is also one of the oldest city parks in the nation and is the most visited single destination in San Diego. Its 1,200 acres include 17 museums, many gardens and attractions, the San Diego Zoo, miles of hiking trails, and multiple athletic complexes to explore and discover. For more information, visit balboapark.org.