Astronomy, space science, art and music will come together at Starmus Festival on Canary Islands

Posted on Feb 04 2011
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From 20 to 25 June 2011

Tribute is to be paid to the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin at an event in which renowned colleagues and astronauts, such as Alexei Leonov, Valentina Tereshkova, Jim Lovell, Bill Anders and Buzz Aldrin will be taking part


  • The conference cycle Discover the cosmos and change the world! will bring together international scientists and researchers, including three Nobel Prize winners
  • The event is probably the world’s largest ever meeting of figures related with the world of astronomy and space exploration
  • Astrophotography, space art exhibitions, a SETI Zone, star-watching, talks and concerts will complete the programme of the Starmus Festival.

The Starmus Festival, which will be held on the islands of Tenerife and La Palma from 20 to 25 June, is the first festival to combine the multiple disciplines of astronomy and space sciences with art and music. Scientists, astronauts and world famous artists will come together on the summer solstice in the Canary Islands to help make science, astronomy, and their discoveries more accessible to the public at large. The tribute to Yuri Gagarin will be one of the main activities at Starmus, which is based around the conference cycle Discover the cosmos and change the world! The artistic side of astronomy will also be on display, with exhibitions of astro photography and space art, and music from the band Tangerine Dream, which will for the first time be using the real sounds emitted by heavenly bodies.

Starmus, which is being organised by Garik Israelian, an astrophysicist at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands, has received the backing of various international scientific institutions and organisations, such as the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands, the Great Canary Telescope, (GTC), UNESCO, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the StarLight Foundation.

The Starmus Festival will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the flight of the Vostok, from 1 to 12 April 1961, during which Yuri Gagarin conquered space for the first time. Friends and legendary astronauts will pay homage to him and share their memories of the Russian cosmonaut, and the Vostok and Apollo missions. The ceremony, which will be held in the Magma Art and Convention Centre, will be attended by a galaxy of figures who have made history in space discovery, such as the cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first man to carry out a space walk in March 1965; the astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who was a member of the legendary Apollo 11 mission that reached the Moon for the first time on 20 July 1969; Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to travel in space aboard the Vostok 6; Jim Lovell, famous for being the commander who safely navigated the damaged ship Apollo 13 back to Earth, and Bill Anders, the photographer who took the legendary picture Earthrise from lunar orbit, showing the Earth rising above the surface of the Moon, as well as other astronauts and cosmonauts.

Discover the cosmos and change the world! This is the title of the conference cycle that will be held from 21 to 24 June at the Magma Centre, with 15 presentations given by leading researchers, including three Nobel Prize winners – George Smith, 2009 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, Jack Szostak, 2009 winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, and George Smoot, 2006 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics 2006 – to help improve our understanding of the Universe, explain the main challenges facing us, and to enthuse the public at large about astronomy.

This journey through the greatest subject areas of astronomy will include presentations about black holes by the Caltech scientist Kip Thorne, one of the world’s top experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein’s theory of relativity; another on planets outside the solar system, by the person who discovered them, the University of Geneva researcher Michel Mayor, and one on exobiology and religion by the renowned ethologist and biologist Richard Dawkins, who is also the author of the provocative books The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion. Meanwhile, the astrophysicist and honorary Chancellor of Liverpool’s John Moores University, Brian May, better known as the founder and guitarist of rock group Queen, will pose the question What are we doing in space?; while Jill Tarter, director of the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) Center in California, whose own life inspired the novel and film Contact, will talk about whether there is intelligent life in the Universe. Robert Williams, President of the International Astronomical Union and pioneering investigator of the Hubble Deep Field, one of the most distant observations of the universe made by man, and with the best visibility, will discuss the last five key astronomical discoveries of the past 50 years. Sami Solanki, director of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, will reveal whether the Sun is to blame for global warming, while Garik Israelian, an astrophysicist from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands, will speak on the stellar orchestra in the acoustic universe. Adam Burrows, an astrophysicist from Princeton University, will discuss supernova explosions and Gamma rays, while the editor of the journal Nature, Leslie Sage, will explain how Astronomy has changed the meaning of what it is to be human, while Joseph Silk, who holds the Savilian Chair in Astronomy at the University of Oxford, will speak about the creation of the Universe.

One of the great attractions of Starmus for students and fans of Astronomy will be the Forum for professionals and enthusiasts, which will be held on Wednesday 22 June. Over the course of an entire day, both professionals and enthusiasts will have 15 minutes to present their studies and projects, and to receive comments and contributions from the other participants in the event. The organising Scientific Committee will select the most significant talks and contributions, which will be published in a book of conclusions. 

108 minutes from the GTC to the whole world

The round table event 108 minutes will take the festival to the Great Canary Telescope, the GTC, which is the largest telescope in the world, located at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma. This event, which will be held on Tuesday 21 June, will bring together a panel of experts, including Nobel Prize winning experts Jack Szostak and George Smoot, researchers Richard Dawkins, Brian May, Kip Thorne and Jill Tarter, and the astronauts Alexei Leonov and Buzz Aldrin. Moderated by Leslie Sage, the editor of the science journal Nature, these experts will discuss the ancestral curiosity of human beings to study the Universe, the need for space travel, the advantages of manned space missions over robotic ones, the possibilities of finding intelligent life on planets outside the Solar System, the existence of God and the creation of the Universe, among other issues. Participants will only have 108 minutes in which to resolve these issues – the same length of time that Gagarin spent in orbit. Attendees will be able to follow this talk live from the Magma Art and Convention Centre, where the festival is being held.

 Much more than science at Starmus
The festival programme will be completed with astro photography, space art exhibitions, stargazing and concerts. The Magma Art and Convention Centre will host three astronomy-related exhibitions. Astrophotography Now will exhibit the works submitted to the First International Competition for the Best Amateur Astrophoto. The panel of judges, headed by a pioneer in this discipline, David Malin, comprises Greg Parker and Noel Carboni, expert astro photographers who co-published the book of deep sky images Star Vistas. 

There will also be a SETI Zone, where people will be able to join the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence with the director of the California-based SETI research centre, Jill Tarter, who will explain all about the Cyclops Project, Sentinel, the META Project (financed by Steven Spielberg), the Allen Telescope Array, the SETI Probe, SETA, and how messages from space are decoded.

The exhibition Space Art and 3D Astronomy: Beyond You Imagination will reflect the close relationship between artists and investigators over the years. The work done by many of these people has enabled the public to see and better understand the meaning of scientific findings.

And there will also be music. The concert Starlight will bring the unmistakable high tech sound of the six times Grammy nominated group Tangerine Dream to Tenerife. For the first time in history, the band will play songs composed using the real rounds emitted by the stars.

Sky-watching over the Canary Islands on the summer solstice
It is no coincidence that Starmus is being held on the summer solstice, an ideal date for watching the stars from one of the best spots on the planet – the Canary Islands. Participants will have the opportunity to view the sky at the Teide star party, a star-gazing party held 2,000 metres above sea level, at the Cañadas del Teide National Parador in the heart of the National Park.

International presentations

The Starmus Festival was unveiled on 30 November last year in Munich, during a press conference at the Cervantes Institute building attended by the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Sami Solanki, the editor of the journal Sterne und Weltraum, Uwe Reichert, and the founder Tangerine Dream, Edgar Froese. The presentation in Moscow, at the offices of the newspaper Komsomólskaya Pravda on 2 December, was headed by legendary cosmonaut Alexei Leonov. The presentation in London will be attended by celebrities such as Brian May and Sir Patrick Moore, and will be held during the world’s largest Astronomy fair, Astrofest, where Starmus will have a stand. Press conferences will shortly be held in Geneva, Paris, Madrid and Los Angeles.
Palmira Márquez
Mercedes Boned
Ludovic Assémat
+ 34 91 521 58 12