Actors Cas Anvar and Cara Gee from the acclaimed sci-fi TV series “The Expanse” team up with Parry Shen of “General Hospital” to search for potentially habitable planets beyond our solar system in a new educational video series called “The Habitable Zone.” The videos introduce audiences to the science of exoplanets and their potential for habitability through a framework of short science fiction stories.
“Our goal was to find a fun, visually-engaging way for life-long learners to explore the universe through stories that are vetted by exoplanet scientists and performed by science-savvy Hollywood celebrities,” said Robert Hurt, an astronomer at Caltech/IPAC who wrote and directed the video.
Each episode of “The Habitable Zone” examines some of the many factors needed to make a planet hospitable for life, in particular humans. The ultimate lesson is that there is a lot more to a planet’s potential habitability than simply how far away it is from its star.
Cas Anvar and Cara Gee are no strangers to space exploration. In “The Expanse,” Anvar portrays Alex Kamal, a Mars citizen and spaceship pilot, and Gee plays Camina Drummer, a resident of the asteroid belt and commander of a giant colony ship. “The Habitable Zone” places Anvar and Gee in similar roles as a nod to their series.
A deeper dive into exoplanet science can be found in the accompanying “Habitable Zone Unplugged” videos, crafted in the style of an after-show interview. In these, astronomers chat about specific exoplanet topics covered in the episode, and illuminate the science underlying the science fiction.
Supporting materials are available on Goldilocks Paradox page below the video, including fun facts about the episode and its science content, downloadable wallpapers, and links to related topics and educational resources.
The first episode, “Goldilocks Paradox” and its four after-show segments are available now from the Universe Unplugged website, YouTube, and iTunes. The second episode, “Scorched Earth Enigma,” will be released in mid-2019.
This video series is the latest installment of the “Universe Unplugged” project that presents science-themed segments featuring celebrity talent. Previous releases include “Think Tank” with Jerika Hinton (Grey’s Anatomy) and Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: TNG) and “Electromagnetic Spectrum: The Musical” featuring Ellen McLain (the voice of GLaDOS in the Portal video game) and Ed Wasser (Babylon 5).
The Universe Unplugged videos are part of a new generation of experiences being developed by the NASA’s Universe of Learning program. The effort combines a direct connection to the science and scientists of NASA’s Astrophysics missions with attention to audience needs to enable youth, families, and lifelong learners to explore fundamental questions in science, experience how science is done, and discover the universe for themselves.
NASA’s Universe of Learning materials are based upon work supported by NASA under award number NNX16AC65A to the Space Telescope Science Institute, working in partnership with Caltech/IPAC, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and Sonoma State University.