The View From Mars: Part One on Nowness.com

A Poetic New Film Celebrates the Launch of a Galactic Telescope in Chile

Jonathan de Villiers’ The View From Mars: Part One takes an expressive look at ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter Array), a vast international telescope project that was inaugurated in Chile this week, after decades in the making. When NASA wants to test a Mars rover or figure out how to detect life in the most inhospitable of environments, they go to the Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth and an area that bears a striking resemblance to the Red Planet. With an utter absence of moisture and altitudes reaching 6,885 meters, the area is a magnet for astronomers seeking the clearest skies on the globe and the least atmosphere between their telescopes and space. ALMA’s moveable group of 66 giant antennas—planted on the remote and harsh 5,200-meter high Chajnantor Plateau—do not detect visible light like conventional optical telescopes. Instead they work together to gather emissions from gas, dust and stars and make observations in millimeter wavelengths, using radio frequencies instead of visible light—with no need for darkness, so the stars can be studied around the clock. With these tools, astronomers will soon be able to look billions of years into the past, gazing at the formation of distant stars and galaxies. “In doing so,” de Villiers reveals, “they’ll build a clearer picture of how our sun and our galaxy formed.”