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ESOcast 1: James Bond at Paranal

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ESO’s Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert… An ocean of calm and scientific investigation… But not today. Film crews and actors have descended on the site, recording the latest James Bond blockbuster – and the Paranal Observatory has a starring role! This is the ESOcast! Cutting-edge science and life behind the scenes of ESO, the European Southern Observatory. Exploring the Universe’s ultimate frontier with our host Dr J, a.k.a. Dr Joe Liske. Hello and welcome to this very first episode of the ESOcast. This brand new vodcast is dedicated to bringing you the hottest science and the latest news from the European Southern Observatory, home to the world’s most advanced telescopes. For this first episode we actually have some rather unusual news to report on. One of ESO's sites in Chile, the Paranal Observatory, featured prominently as an exotic location in the filming of the movie Quantum of Solace, the latest adventure of that most famous of secret agents, James Bond. Paranal Observatory is home to ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Boasting an array of four giant 8-metre eyes, it is without a doubt the most advanced telescope in the world. Paranal is located on a mountain 2600 metres above sea level in the Atacama Desert, thought to be the driest place on Earth. The high altitude and extreme dryness make it perfect for astronomical observations. But the conditions at Paranal come with a price. In this forbidding desert environment, virtually nothing can grow outside. The humidity drops below 10%, there are intense ultraviolet rays from the Sun, and the high altitude leaves people short of breath. Living in this extremely isolated place feels like visiting another planet. So it’s no wonder the site was chosen to film Quantum of Solace. The movie continues the story of secret agent James Bond, played again by Englishman Daniel Craig. This time, he is determined to take revenge on the organisation that caused the death of the woman he loved. And it’s this quest that brings him to the desert. I think the landscapes and what the landscape gives us, and what it gives to Bond and the character, is really, really good because in a sense you know we are shooting in a desert and that is sort of a reflection of Bond’s character and self, because, the desert always brings in, brings along a certain loneliness, a certain solitude, and that solitude and loneliness sort of reflects who Bond is at this point. We’re about two hours East of Antofagasta which is on the Chilean, North Chilean Coast, in the middle of nowhere. How many feet up? About 10000 feet up are we here? We were lucky enough to be accepted up there really, because it’s a research centre, so we were very privileged to be filming up at the observatory and using it for one of our key locations in the movie. It’s a stunning place. To make it possible for people to live and work at Paranal, a hotel or "Residencia" was built in the base camp, providing a refuge from the arid environment outside. Here, returning from long shifts at installations on the mountain, the crew can breathe moist air and relax, sheltered from the harsh conditions. The Residencia's award-winning design, including an enclosed tropical garden and pool under a futuristic domed roof gives its interior a feeling of open space within the protective walls. It is a true haven in the desert. This unique building serves as a backdrop in the Bond film. The Residencia is, in fact, the hideout of maverick Dominic Greene, played by Mathieu Amalric. It’s his façade. It’s his nice side. This is to save the planet. It’s an eco-park, great idea. Using natural resources not to pollute the planet, try to plant trees, and kill the desert. Great stuff. The Paranal Residencia is elegant, built with robust and inexpensive materials. Taking advantage of an existing depression in the ground, architects created a unique subterranean construction with a single façade opening towards the Pacific Ocean far below at a distance of about 12 kilometres. It has the same colour as the desert and blends perfectly into the surroundings. Natural daylight is brought into the building through a 35 metre wide glass-covered dome, a rectangular courtyard roof and skylight hatches. The originality of this design made it possible to create an interior with a feeling of open space, despite the underground location. The film crew of about 300 people shot some of the most critical scenes in the movie at Paranal. The ESO director general, Tim de Zeeuw, happened to be on site during the filming. We are all delighted that they are here and it is extremely good to see how careful the crew is with the surroundings and how mindful they are of the fact that they are in an operating, working observatory. So clearly the crew couldn’t do all of the filming at the Observatory itself, so they created a mock-up of the Paranal Residencia at the world famous 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios. In reality of course, the Paranal Residencia is home to all the technicians, engineers, and astronomers that make the Very Large Telescope or VLT one of the most successful and efficient science machines ever built. Who knows, maybe one day the VLT itself will feature in a James Bond movie. 4 main 8.2-m unit telescopes 4 movable 1.8-m auxilary telescopes VLT Interferometer: Combining the light of the telescopes Laser Guide Star The world's most advanced optical telescope This is Dr J signing off for the ESOcast. The sky is no longer the limit. ESOcast is produced by ESO, the European Southern Observatory. ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is the pre-eminent intergovernmental science and technology organisation in astronomy designing, constructing and operating the world's most advanced ground-based telescopes. Thanks to Sony Pictures and EON Productions Ltd. Transcription by ESO ; translation by — Cut!

Video Details

Duration: 7 minutes and 58 seconds
Year: 2008
Country: Germany
Language: English
Director: Lars Lindberg Christensen
Views: 579
Posted by: esoastronomy on Jan 29, 2010

ESO's Paranal Observatory has just been used as the key location for Quantum of Solace, the latest film in one of the most successful movie franchises – that of renowned secret agent 007. See why ESO played a pivotal role in this movie!

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