The Unlimited Adventure Series continues in Vail |

The Unlimited Adventure Series continues in Vail

Daily Staff Report
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyThe BLAST (Balloon-bourne, Large Aperture, Sub-millimeter Telescope) telescope in the midnight sun in Sweden's Arctic.

VAIL, Colorado ” BLAST embodies a meeting of the science and film worlds: two brothers, one an astrophysicist attempting a major scientific adventure, and the other a filmmaker about to launch an independent documentary. Through compelling collaboration, brothers Dr. Mark Devlin and director Paul Devlin reveal their world as they launch BLAST ” a Balloon-borne Large Aperture Telescope and the documentary that follows the story. The Devlin brothers will share their story tonight at 6 p.m. at the Donovan Pavilion in West Vail. The event is free and open to all ages.

“Paul and Mark Devlin represent an aggressive breed of adventurers who push both the boundaries of science and the boundaries of the human mind,” said Fraidy Aber, executive director of the Vail Symposium. “I am especially looking forward to seeing the trailer for the film prior to its world release.”

The BLAST film follows the close-knit team of astrophysicists, lead by Dr. Mark Devlin, on their adventurous journey to launch a multi-million dollar telescope on a NASA high-altitude balloon. Traveling from Arctic Sweden all the way to Antarctica, the BLAST team put their personal lives on hold to spend five years building an historic telescope that will discover thousands of the most distant, primeval galaxies. Through BLAST, the random, haphazard side of science, as well as its drive and tenacity, is revealed as the team helps unravel humankind’s most basic question, “How did we get here?”

Dr. Mark Devlin is an experimental cosmologist from the University of Pennsylvania where he is the Reese W. Flower Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics. His interests focus on the origins and evolution of the early universe. He has traveled the globe in pursuit of these studies. In addition to BLAST, Mark’s other work has taken him to the high elevation plateaus of Northern Chile where he has built the highest telescope facility in the world.

From the riotous streets of Tbilisi, Georgia for his film “Power Trip,” to the counter-culture coffee shops of the National Poetry Slam with his film “SlamNation,” filmmaker and five-time Emmy winner Paul Devlin has traveled the world to capture some of the most compelling subjects for his documentaries. He has also covered the Tour de France for CBS and the Olympics for NBC. Paul’s films have screened in 60 countries, won 10 festival awards, and aired on HBO/Cinemax and PBS’s Independent Lens.

BLAST researchers are mainly focused on learning more about how the earliest galaxies and stars were formed. But, by their very nature, the stars forming in early galaxies are hard to see. Stars are formed inside massive clouds of dust and gas, so looking into these cloudy delivery rooms can be problematic. Luckily, star births are fiery events.

Though it sounds strange, when one looks further out into space, one actually looks further back in time. When looking at galaxies in the farthest reaches of space, one cannot see what is happening with them today. Instead, one views their activity from billions of years ago. In this way, scientists can develop a timeline for the evolution of the Universe.

The main difference between BLAST and other telescopes is what it can enable the human eye to see. BLAST detects a wavelength between a tenth of a millimeter and one millimeter. This wavelength is longer than infrared, but shorter than radio waves. BLAST is also different from the average home telescope because it weighs 4,000 pounds, takes four computers to run, and can operate autonomously for 11 days while dangling from a 40 million cubic foot balloon at 130,000 feet above Antarctica. And, unlike the average home telescope, it costs about $10 million.

Unlimited Adventures will take place every Thursday evening through March 6 at the Donovan Pavilion in West Vail. Programs start at 6 p.m. and are free to attendees of all ages. For more information, visit or call 476-0954.

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