In Star Men, four exceptional astronomers celebrate 50 years of work and friendship on a road trip in the south-western United States, recapturing youthful adventures and recounting each other’s influences on the most exciting period in astronomy’s history: Roger the Instrument – maker, Donald the theorist, Nick the visionary, and Wal the observer.
“This film was born of my love of ‘Star Trek’ and the space adventure stories I watched as a kid. These shows were about relationships and exploration; they made science fun and deep,” says Star Men Director and Writer, Alison Rose. “There was always an ethical dilemma to resolve. I met the first of the subjects of this film, Nick Woolf making my first film Galileo’s Sons. I met Donald Lynden-Bell at a physics and philosophy conference in Poland. I asked Donald if he knew Nick, and Donald exclaimed: “know Nick Woolf? I’m planning a reunion with Nick. We’re going to take a road trip.” Donald told me about the 50th reunion he was planning with the men he’d spent a year with in California and I leapt at the chance to go with them. The road trip would be a real-life space adventure story with astrophysicists who’d spent their lifetime exploring the universe.”
Visit Starmen.Space to discover more fascinating, in-depth info and to get to know the four stars of this two-part doc even better. Soon to come: interactive tours of the universe featuring highlights of some of the most important astronomical discoveries!
Roger Griffin (Emeritus Professor of Observational Astronomy University of Cambridge) developed a spectrometer that planet hunters adapted to find planets orbiting other stars.
Donald Lynden-Bell CBE, FRS (Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics, University of Cambridge) calculated that the brightest objects in the universe were disks of gas spinning around black holes and that there was a black hole at the centre of every galaxy. For this he was awarded the first Kavli Prize in Astrophysics which honors achievements in fields that have emerged since the Nobel Prize.
Nick Woolf (Emeritus Professor of Astronomy, University of Arizona) pioneered adaptive optics making telescope images sharper by subtracting atmospheric interference.
Wallace L. Sargent FRS (Ira S. Bowen Professor of Astrophysics, California Institue of Technology) discovered observational proof of the Big Bang and founded a new field studying the large scale structure of the Universe.
Together, this group of astronomers represent the most productive period astronomy has ever had. They helped build the world’s biggest observatories and made revolutionary discoveries about the evolving universe, discoveries that have the power to change the way humanity sees itself.
In old age and facing death, their journey through memory and the breathtaking landscape provokes them to reflect on how their profound work on the universe has reflected back on the individual, affecting their sense of religious faith, how life may have purpose, and what is knowable and unknowable.
Filmed in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, the film features POV narration, and draws a character-driven, intimate portrait of friendship as the men travel from the century-old telescope on Mt. Wilson through a progression of larger and more powerful observatories. They pause at the Grand Canyon, and re-take a hike that nearly defeated them when they were young.
“Explanations about black holes and spectral light are neat, but these guys really get deep on their relationship to life, death and each other. Their work on the grand scheme of things often makes everything else seem insignificant, yet in this road trip it’s their small human moments that feel big.” – NOW Magazine
“Though well into their 70s, Roger and Donald are spry enough to repeat a two-day hike to Rainbow Bridge, a natural stone arch in Utah. Clambering over rocks, these hale explorers are reminiscent of Apollo astronauts, similarly aged but healthy. Certainly their contributions to our understanding of our universe are no less.” – National Post
“There is enormous charm and food for thought in Alison Rose’s documentary about four retired, snowy-haired English astronomers and their road-trip reunion in the American south-west; they are recreating a journey they took together decades previously, as gung-ho twentysomething students at the California Institute of Technology.” – The Guardian