Look Up Screensaver Showcases Our Stellar Neighbors We Might Someday Visit

By David Wharton | 8 years ago

“Look upwards, and share the wonders I’ve seen.”

Those lines were spoken by wayward astronaut John Crichton in the opening title sequence of Farscape, still one of my favorite science fiction shows of all time. It speaks to something that Farscape did very well: conjuring a sense of wonder and awe at our vast universe, and the varied life that might be out there. I don’t know whether the above video, entitled Look Up, was as an intentional tip of the hat to Farscape or not, but either way the result is the same: I really, really want to go exploring. (And also rewatch Farscape).

The Look Up video was created by the Barbarian Group for the 100 Year Starship initiative. For those unfamiliar, the 100 Year Starship initiative strives “…to make the capability of human travel beyond our solar system a reality within the next 100 years.” That’s obviously a bold challenge with many difficulties facing it, but where’s the fun in keeping your aspirations conservative? The group is headed by astronaut/doctor Mae Jamison (because only being an astronaut or a doctor wouldn’t be impressive enough). The group has various initiatives and thought experiments in the works, including my personal favorite: “What If…Starship 2020.” It challenges participants to assume that mankind must launch a crewed interstellar mission by the year 2020, and to brainstorm ways to make that happen using only technologies that currently exist, or that could reasonably be expected to exist by 2020.

The Look Up screensaver takes you on a voyage through the star systems closest to our own, the systems our species might one day visit, assuming we can hurdle those challenges without extinguishing ourselves along the way. The video above shows only a short sampling from the screen saver: a quick jaunt to Alpha Centauri (4 light years from Earth), Barnard’s Star (5.98 LY from Earth), Tau Ceti (11.9 LY from Earth), and Sirius (8.60 LY from Earth).

The “voyage” to each new destination is accompanied with some handy factoids such as how long it would take us to reach the given system traveling at the speed of various man-made craft, ranging from a car to the space shuttle to Voyager 1. They even include some snazzy “star blur/speed lines” effects to suggest the simulation’s ridiculously rapid travel between the various stars. If only cracking interstellar travel was as easy as making a nifty screensaver…

The Look Up screensaver requires a donation to the 100 Year Starship to download, but you’re able to decide for yourself what level of donation you think is appropriate. Don’t be a dick and give them like ten cents, people, this is our future on the line!

You can read about the making of the Loop Up screensaver in crazy detail right here. Now I need to get back to that warp drive theory I was not actually working on…