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Germany (1738 - 1822)
Sir Frederick William Herschel was a German-born British astronomer and composer who became famous for discovering Uranus. He also discovered infrared radiation and made many other discoveries in astronomy.
A far-reaching global adventure

Inspiration for the film 400 Years of the Telescope struck in fall 2006 when Interstellar Studios’ producer/writer Kris Koenig, and Associate Producer Anita Ingrao, who were wrapping production on a corporate video for W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, on the summit of Mauna Kea, learned about the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) initiative. Kicking off in January, 2009, the IYA will be a far-reaching global venture celebrating the 400-year anniversary of Galileo’s astronomical use of the telescope and promoting better understanding of astronomy and appreciation of our changing cosmos.

Galileo’s profound impact on astronomy was a natural subject for Kris, Anita and Dan Koehler, whose Interstellar Studios, based in Chico, California, specializes in producing multimedia productions that entertain and educate the public about the wonders of space, from high-def documentaries to planetarium programs, web programming and interactive kiosk design.

Kris’s long-time passion for astronomy has taken him and Anita all over the world, including most of the major observatories in the western hemisphere, earning them two Emmy® Awards in 2005 for the ten-hour PBS telecourse Astronomy: Observations and Theories. Kris is also founder and director of the Kiwanis Chico Community Observatory, one of the most successful community observatories, and the nation’s only outdoor planetarium. Anita is the observatory's curator.

An "historic anniversary"

“This historic anniversary seemed a great opportunity to create a film that would be viable in the U.S. and all over the world, showing how the telescope changed our view of the universe,” said Kris. “It’s a straight-ahead documentary that reflects the current state of astronomy with an appreciation for the past.”

To develop the documentary, Interstellar Studios assembled a team of “Who’s Who” in astronomy — all the best and brightest in astronomy and cosmology — and went to work on a film treatment. The writing team includes Kris and Donald Goldsmith, a well-known astronomy populist who is part of the Carl Sagan Cosmos Team and writer on the PBS series, The Astronomers. Rounding out the writing team is Albert Van Helden, a leading historian on the development of the telescope.

As the production crew began interviews of renowned astronomers and cosmologists, transcripts of the interviews shaped the final script and direction of the film. “We read the transcripts, then wrote the real script,” said Kris.

Kris and his team interviewed over 70 astronomers, cosmologists and historians from the WIYN Observatory, SETI Institute, Kitt Peak National Observatory, Harvard-Smithsonian, the Vatican Observatory, and the Chile’s famous CTIO high up in the Andes mountains.

Due to run time restrictions, the team was able to use only a fraction of the interviews in the 55-minute documentary. “Astronomy is a subject so complex and rich in history, there’s no way to do it justice, even in a six-hour mini-series,” admits Kris, noting that all 70 hours of interviews of the world’s foremost astronomers and cosmologists are available online. Interview clips are searchable by keywords so anyone interested in astronomy or telescopes can do future research


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