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First Deliberate Deep Space Film Transmission - Lesson Plan
By Cynthia Kirkeby
Dec 11, 2008, 20:20 PST

The Day The Eath Stood Still
The Day The Eath Stood Still Double-sided poster
27 in. x 41 in.
Buy at

Film: The Day The Earth Stood Still

Director: Scott Derrickson
Writer: David Scarpa
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates

Twentieth Century Fox will make history by transmitting THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL on Friday, December 12, 2008. The first deliberate deep space transmission of this highly anticipated science fiction thriller will coincide with the film’s opening day on Planet Earth. If any civilizations are currently orbiting Alpha Centauri, they will be able to receive and view the film approximately four years from now in the year 2012.

So, how fast will the film be whizzing its way across the universe?

It will be traveling 186,000 miles per second.

The distance from Earth at the speed of light, and the film's transmission times for the galaxy and beyond are as follows:
  • Sun: 0.0 AU, 8.41536 minutes
  • Mercury: 0.4 AU, 4.99662 minutes
  • Venus: 0.7 AU, 2.5035696 minutes
  • Mars: 1.5 AU, 3.997296 minutes
  • Jupiter: 5.0 AU, 35.028936 minutes
  • Saturn: 10.0 AU, 1.18341 hours
  • Uranus: 19.0 AU, 2.49831 hours
  • Neptune: 30.0 AU, 4.03236 hours

If Pluto is 39.0 AU, how many hours will it take for transmission of the film?
According to NASA:

1 AU = 149,597,870.691 kilometers

Definition: An Astronomical Unit is approximately the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun. It is a derived constant and used to indicate distances within the solar system. Its formal definition is the radius of an unperturbed circular orbit a massless body would revolve about the sun in 2*(pi)/k days (i.e., 365.2568983.... days), where k is defined as the Gaussian constant exactly equal to 0.01720209895. Since an AU is based on radius of a circular orbit, one AU is actually slightly less than the average distance between the Earth and the Sun (approximately 150 million km or 93 million miles).

Historical Background: Tycho Brahe estimated the distance between the Sun and the Earth at 8 million kilometers (5 million miles). Later, Johannes Kepler estimated the AU was at 24 million kilometers (15 million miles). In 1672, Giovanni Cassini made a much better estimate by using Mars. By observing Mars from Paris and having a colleague, Jean Richer, also observe Mars at the same time in French Guiana in South America, Cassini determined the parallax of Mars. From that Cassini was able to calculate the distance from Earth to Mars, and then the distance from Earth to the Sun. Cassini calculated the AU to be at 140 million kilometers (87 million miles), which is lower, but very close to the modern day number.

This image shows the relative sizes and positions of the orbits of the planets farther from the Sun than Earth. All the planets have orbits that are ellipses with the Sun at one of the foci, and the ellipses are in different planes. However, in a perspective view of the orbits such as this one, only Pluto, which has now been reclassified as a dwarf planet, has a noticeably noncircular orbit that lies in a different plane from the other planets. Image Credit: Scaling the Outer Planets - Courtesy of Lunar and Planetary Institute
Lesson Plan:

Scaling the Solar System (PDF File)

Level: Grades 3–5
Duration: 1-3 Class Periods Background: Astronomers have chosen a unit to measure distances in space called the astronomical unit (AU). The length of an astronomical unit is the average distance of the Earth from the Sun. The distance is about 93,000,000 miles (mi), or 150,000,000 kilometers (km). Using 150,000,000 km as one astronomical unit, create a model solar system.
Source NASA SCI Files™ Series

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