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Apollo 11 review: a truly stunning new way to see the moon landing



Fifty years ago this July, the first men landed on the moon, the culmination of the Apollo 11 mission. “Iconic” is an overused word, but the images recorded during that mission deserve it: the blast-off moment, the American flag planted on the lunar surface, Neil Armstrong reflected in Buzz Aldrin’s helmet.

Those images have been revisited countless times in the five decades of pop culture since. Just last year, the masterful film First Man told the story of the moon landing as part of a character study of Neil Armstrong. The landing itself and the images we have from it symbolize a moment in history — whether real, mythological, or aspirational — in which anything seemed possible, a moment when it was possible to believe that humanity could unite toward a common goal. The Apollo 11 images have come to represent hope.

The shuttle launches in Apollo 11.

The shuttle launches in Apollo 11.

The new documentary Apollo 11, directed by Todd Douglas Miller, harnesses those images to powerfully retell the story of the mission. But Miller’s film does a lot more than just retread familiar history. Using never-before-seen footage and sound from the mission that has been meticulously scanned and restored, Apollo 11 moves from launch to safe return in a way that makes you feel as if you’re living through it. There’s minimal onscreen text, a couple of very simple illustrations to show the shuttle’s trajectory, and no talking heads.

The result is an extraordinary film. It is grand and awe-inspiring, particularly if you can catch it in IMAX, where the larger-format images create the feeling of being engulfed by what you’re watching onscreen. It’s almost as if you’re actually on the moon.

Yet the film also focuses on the intimate moments, tedious calculations, and the army of scientists and technicians who truly propelled the mission along. It took much more than a few indelible images to get Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon and back again — something they all noted in writing about their experience afterward.

Apollo 11 focuses not just on the awe-inspiring moonscapes but on the intricate, intimate moments of the shuttle’s mission

When I talked to Miller recently about the film, he noted that based on reading the astronauts’ books, it’s clear that the “most iconic moments from the mission” weren’t the ones we think of automatically. “It wasn’t landing on the moon. It wasn’t getting back safely, the return, taking off, all the big moments that always get broadcast and retold time and time again. It was all the little moments: approaching the moon, seeing the solar eclipse, having the moon appear.”

So that’s what he sought to bring to the film — and he had the benefit of some good luck. After CNN Films approached him to work on the documentary, Miller contacted the National Archives about restoring footage from the mission. “I said, ‘Look, what would it take for me to re-scan all of the 16 and 35 [mm film] that was related to Apollo 11?’” he recalled. “There had been no major effort to do it in over a decade. I said, ‘If I did it, I would just do it all. What are we looking at?’ They were like, ‘You want to do what?’”

They agreed. But the already huge undertaking was made especially massive by the discovery of 65mm reels that had been sitting in a vault for decades. The large-format film, which captures extraordinary, rich images and was being used at the time for Hollywood productions like The Sound of Music, was shot by NASA employees as well as the crew of a documentary to be called Moonwalk One, which was released in 1972. Much of the footage the Apollo 11 team worked with had never been seen by the public. And there were more than 11,000 hours of audio to match.

Buzz Aldrin in Apollo 11.

Buzz Aldrin in Apollo 11.

Miller and his team waded through it all — a true “divide and conquer” effort, as he put it — and worked with the post-production company Final Frame to digitize it. “At one point, we were going to do it all in 4K,” Miller told me, explaining his initial plan to produce the film in a very high-resolution digital format. “Then we were in a meeting and Final Frame’s owner, Will Cox, said, ‘You know, if you wait six months, I think we can do it at 16K.’” That would require developing a new scanner, but Todd decided the delay would be worth it. “I don’t want to look back on this moment in 20 years and have said no,” he said. “That six months turned into eight. It was definitely worth it, but it was nail-biting the entire time.”

When all the scans were finally complete, the result was about a petabyte of information (1 million gigabytes).

Apollo 11’s imagery is stunning, even if you’ve seen the moon landing many times before

Indeed, the team’s efforts and patience were well worth the outcome. The quality of Apollo 11’s footage is hard to believe — we’re simply not used to seeing such high-resolution imagery from that time period, especially inside NASA control rooms or among the throngs of spectators who gathered at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch the launch. And yet, though most of us haven’t seen the evidence, people were filming the whole time. “These camera guys were asked to turn their back on what is basically one of the most historic things in human history and just shoot this way,” Miller says, gesturing away from where the shuttle would have been — all to make sure the ordinary civilians gathered were part of the story too.

And it wasn’t just trained camera operators documenting the mission; among the film’s credited cinematographers are Aldrin, Armstrong, and Collins, all of whom shot photos and film on the moon itself.

All of the resulting footage and sound tells a stirring story. Chatter in the control rooms and in the shuttle is mixed with voiceover from public figures like Walter Cronkite, in narration drawn from his news coverage at the time. Jokes fly between the astronauts and mission control, and there are moments of tension and levity. Men wipe their brows with relief. Aldrin plays “Mother Country” on a cassette tape; we hear it through the sound link from space to the ground. The astronauts explain to Mission Control what sleeping arrangements they’ve come up with in the cramped shuttle.

“There’s a lot of tedious things that happen when you go to the moon, simple things,” Miller says. “You’re just trying to survive. How do you go to the bathroom? You’re shaving. All the little things. We wanted to highlight that and also the humanity and just let it play out.”

The astronauts board the vehicle that will take them to their spacecraft.

The astronauts board the vehicle that will take them to their spacecraft.

Often, moments like the moon landing are sliced into snippets and sound bites that make it seem like Aldrin, Armstrong, and Collins were the only true heroes, propelling the mission along. But mixing their individual moments into the bigger picture, and showing how many people were watching and working and hoping for the best, makes the team effort, and the great scientific and technical triumph, come through much more clearly. Even the single most famous moment of the moon landing — Armstrong’s “one small step for man” statement when he first touched the lunar surface — is expanded; the footage keeps rolling, and then Armstrong starts making observations about the lunar dust, and its depth, for NASA’s research.

And that feels especially appropriate for a film that required such a large team effort to complete, from Miller and his cohort to the post-production house to the archivists and, of course, the many people who shot the source footage a half-century ago. “There was just a ton of cinematographers, ordinary people, shooting,” Miller says. “It’s some of the most gorgeous stuff I’ve ever seen. My hope is, even though a lot of these people aren’t around anymore, that hopefully they get credited and honored now that the film is coming out.”

Apollo 11 opened nationwide on March 8. It’s also playing in IMAX in select theaters.

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20 People Share Secrets From Their Jobs and Now We Can’t Sleep Well




Almost every job has its own secrets and nuances that very few people know. The people of different professions shared secrets from their jobs on Reddit and on Twitter and some of their stories may seriously change the way you see the world.

We at Bright Side, of course, don’t have any secrets like these, but as it turns out, not all other professions are as transparent as they seem to be.

  • Truck driver: 9 out of 10 truck drivers travel with a smartphone on their windshield watching a TV-series. Stay away from big trucks.
  • Disney World employee: There are secret tunnels underneath both Epcot and the Magic Kingdom (and probably other parks too) that enable the cast members to travel across the park pretty quickly and easily.

Comment from a park-goer: My father suffered a heart attack while visiting Epcot. I have never witnessed a faster medical response with professionals appearing from seemingly nowhere with just as fast transport through underground tunnels. It was a lifesaver. He was transported to a Disney hospital where he received great care after an emergency surgery and our stay was extended by 3 weeks.

  • IT support people: (help desks, computer repair shops, Geek Squad, etc.) are mostly just better at Googling than you are.
  • Employee at a flour factory: Wheat flour is not actually white. We use chlorine to make it look more attractive. This also increases the gluten level in flour, and this is why people are more gluten-sensitive today.
  • Rescue team member: When you are a young lifeguard, you always have a radio with you 24/7. And you always listen to what happens in the city. If you are going, for example, to a birthday party in your own car and then you hear there is a fire on a nearby street, you turn the car and drive there! (I have my own gear in the car). @Moscow_Spasatel
  • Olive oil factory employee: We had only one kind of oil but we put it in 27 different containers and sold it at different prices. Some of them were labeled as imported, some were called the highest quality oil. But it was the same oil in every single bottle.
  • IT-service engineer: When someone is fixing your computer, they also often look through the data on your hard drive searching for something funny or embarrassing. So, before you give your computer to an IT service, clear your browser history, and copy all the important data to an external drive.
  • Candle factory: Paraffin candles are dangerous and poisonous. Because I know what we added in there (even to the candles that say “100% paraffin”), I will never ever use candles again. If you need to use them for some reason, buy candles made of bee’s wax without any scents.
  • Sommelier: Wine isn’t vegan. It’s not even vegetarian in some cases. The filtering (refining) process uses egg whites, and sometimes isinglass (fish parts).

  • Movie theater: A large bag of popcorn that costs the customer $5.99 (at the time) cost the movie theatre 6 cents to produce, including the butter, the kernels, the bag, the power used by the popper and the time it took the concession employee to fill up the bag and give it to the customer.
  • Internet services: Most “subscription services” will raise their prices over time because they expect you to just live with it. This applies to phone bills, cable packages, internet service, insurance plans… Call up, politely complain about the price. Skip the canned “well the price has gone up because inflation/rising costs/age/end of promotion” and continue to politely say it’s too much, your budget can’t handle all your outgoings and you may need to drop the service. Either you are speaking to someone who can reduce the price, or they can put you through to a person authorized to reduce the price.
  • Mechanic: If you want to go on vacation and you don’t know where to leave your car, get it to a mechanic. Many people do this. It’s ridiculously cheap and you can be away for a month! It is much more expensive to use parking lots. @Neformatws
  • Pharmacist: I’ve worked at several factories that manufacture medications. And the rules were the same everywhere: if you dropped pills on the floor, just put them back into the bottle. So, maybe your medications are not as clean as you think.
  • Librarian: The amount of toilet paper, random items, and bills used as bookmarks that are left in returned library books is unbelievable!
  • Doctor: We spend so much time to be good at what we do, that we know almost nothing about other things.

Is there something about your job that is kept secret?

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The spring equinox is Wednesday, March 20: 7 things to know about the first day of spring.




The vernal equinox is upon us: On Wednesday, March 20, both the Northern and Southern hemispheres will experience an equal amount of daylight. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the beginning of spring, with daylight hours continuing to lengthen until the summer solstice in June. For those south of the equator, it’s the beginning of autumn.

Technically speaking, the equinox occurs when the sun is directly in line with the equator. This will happen at 5:58 pm Eastern time on Wednesday. (A few hours later, at 9:43 pm, you can look out for the “supermoon”, the last one until 2020.)

Below is a short scientific guide to the most equal night of the year.

1) Why do we have an equinox?

The equinox, the seasons, and the changing length of daylight hours throughout the year are all due to one fact: The Earth spins on a tilted axis.

The tilt — possibly caused by a massive object hitting Earth billions of years ago — means that for half the year, the North Pole is pointed toward the sun (as in the picture below). For the other half of the year, the South Pole gets more light. It’s what gives us seasons.


Here’s a time-lapse demonstration of the phenomenon shot over the course of a whole year from space. In the video, you can see how the line separating day from night swings back and forth from the poles during the year.

NASA/Meteosat/Robert Simmon

And here’s yet another cool way to visualize the seasons. In 2013, a resident of Alberta, Canada, took this pinhole camera photograph of the sun’s path throughout the year and shared it with the astronomy website EarthSky. You can see the dramatic change in the arc of the sun from December to June.

This is a 6 month pinhole photo taken from solstice to solstice, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. We are one of the sunniest cities in Canada, and this shows it nicely.

Posted by Ian Hennes on Saturday, December 21, 2013

(You can easily make a similar image at home. All you need is a can, photo paper, some tape, and a pin. Instructions here.)

2) How many hours of daylight will I get Wednesday?

Equinox literally means “equal night.” And during the equinox, most places on Earth will see approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.

But not every place will experience the exact same amount of daylight. For instance, on Wednesday, Fairbanks, Alaska, will see 12 hours and 15 minutes of daylight. Key West, Florida, will see 12 hours and six minutes. The differences are due to how the sunlight gets refracted (bent) as it enters Earth’s atmosphere at different latitudes.

That daylight is longer than 12 hours on the equinox is also due to how we commonly measure the length of a day: from the first hint of the sun peeking over the horizon in the morning to the very last glimpse of it before it falls below the horizon in the evening. Because the sun takes some time to rise and set, it adds some extra daylight minutes.

Check out to see how many hours of sunlight you’ll get during the equinox.

3) Over the course of the entire year, does every spot on Earth get an equal number of daylight hours?

In the summer months, the northernmost latitudes get a lot of daylight. Above the Arctic Circle, during the summer, there’s 24 hours of daylight. In the winter, the Arctic Circle is plunged into constant darkness.

So does this mean the number of daylight hours — in total, over the course of the year — equal out to places where the seasonal difference is less extreme?

The answer to this question is somewhat surprising: Roughly speaking, everywhere on Earth sees a similar number of daylight hours every year. But the equator actually gets slightly fewer daylight hours than the poles.

As astronomer Tony Flanders explained for Sky & Telescope magazine, sunlight at the poles gets refracted more than sunlight at the equator. That refracting results in the visible disc of the sun being slightly stretched out (think of when the full moon is near the horizon and looks huge — it’s being refracted too). And the refracted, stretched-out sun takes slightly longer to rise and set. Flanders estimated that the equator spends around 50.5 percent of its year in sunlight, while the poles spend between 51.5 and 53 percent of their years in sunlight.

And, of course, this is how much sunlight these areas could potentially receive if the weather were always perfectly clear; it’s not how much sunlight they actually see, nor the strength of the sunlight that hits their ground. “Where are the places on Earth that receive the largest amount of solar radiation?” is a slightly different question, the answer to which can be seen on the chart below.

US Energy Information Administration

4) Can I really only balance an egg on its tip during on the equinox?

Perhaps you were told as a child that on the equinox, it’s easier to balance an egg vertically on a flat surface than on other days of the year.

The practice originated in China as a tradition on the first day of spring in the Chinese lunar calendar in early February. According to the South China Morning Post, “The theory goes that at this time of year the moon and earth are in exactly the right alignment, the celestial bodies generating the perfect balance of forces needed to make it possible.”

This is a myth. The amount of sunlight we get during the day has no power over the gravitational pull of the Earth or our abilities to balance things upon it. You can balance an egg on its end any day of the year (if you’re good at balancing things).

This man is very good at balancing eggs.
AFP/Getty Images

5) Is there an ancient monument that does something cool during the equinox?

During the winter and summer solstices, crowds flock to Stonehenge in the United Kingdom. During the solstices, the sun either rises or sets in line with the layout of the 5,000-year-old-monument. And while some visit Stonehenge for the spring equinox too, the real place to be is in Mexico.

That’s because on the equinox, the pyramid at Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula puts on a wondrous show. Built by the Mayans around 1,000 years ago, the pyramid is designed to cast a shadow on the equinox outlining the body of Kukulkan, a feathered snake god. A serpent-head statue is located at the bottom of the pyramid, and as the sun sets on the day of the equinox, the sunlight and shadow show the body of the serpent joining with the head.

This is easier to see in a video. Check it out below.

6) Are there equinoxes on other planets?

Yes! All the planets in the solar system rotate on a tilted axis and therefore have seasons. Some of these tilts are minor (like Mercury, which is tilted at 2.11 degrees). But others are more like the Earth (tilted at 23.5 degrees) or are even more extreme (Uranus is tilted 98 degrees!).

Below, see a beautiful composite image of Saturn on its equinox captured by the Cassini spacecraft (RIP) in 2009. The gas giant is tilted 27 degrees relative to the sun, and equinoxes on the planet are less frequent than on Earth. Saturn only sees an equinox about once every 15 years (because it takes Saturn 29 years to complete one orbit around the sun).

Cassini Imaging Team/NASA

During Saturn’s equinox, its rings become unusually dark. That’s because these rings are only around 30 feet thick. And when light hits them head on, there’s not much surface area to reflect.

7) I clicked this article accidentally and really just want a mind-blowing picture of the sun

The sun blew out a coronal mass ejection along with part of a solar filament over a three-hour period (February 24, 2015). Some of the strands fell back into the sun.
Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA

The image above was taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a spacecraft launched in 2010 to better understand the sun.

This past summer, NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft that will come within 4 million miles of the surface of the sun (much closer than any spacecraft has been before). The goal is to study the sun’s atmosphere, weather, and magnetism and figure out the mystery of why the sun’s corona (its atmosphere) is much hotter than its surface. Still, even several million miles away, the probe will have to withstand temperatures of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s essential to understand the sun: It’s nothing to mess with. Brad Plumer wrote for Vox about what happens when the sun erupts and sends space weather our way to wreak havoc on Earth.

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