A poet’s ode to the Hubble Telescope – and to her father, who helped to build it

At the moment, astronomers and astrophiles across the globe are just beginning to receive some of the first highly anticipated images from the James Webb Space Telescope. The short film My God, It’s Full of Stars invites viewers to celebrate its predecessor in peering deeper into the cosmos than humanity ever has before – the Hubble Space Telescope – as well as some of the human stories behind it. Created to accompany an essay by Maria Popova as part of the The Marginalian’s Universe in Verse series, the animation adapts a poem by the former US Poet Laureate Tracy K Smith, whose father worked on the Hubble as one of NASA’s first Black engineers. Pairing Smith’s words with meticulously crafted visuals from the Brazilian animation director Daniel Brunson, the piece is a wondrous ode to our desire to know the Universe. Reflecting on the project in her essay, Popova writes:

when the Hubble Space Telescope finally launched [in] 1990, hungry to capture the most intimate images of the cosmos humanity had yet seen, humanity had crept into the instrument’s exquisite precision – its main mirror had been ground into the wrong spherical shape, warping its colossal eye.
Up the coast from Mount Wilson Observatory, a teenage girl watched her father – who had worked on the Hubble as one of NASA’s first Black engineers – come home brokenhearted. He didn’t know that his observant daughter would become Poet Laureate of his country and would come to commemorate him in the tenderest tribute an artist-daughter has ever made for a scientist-father.

Video by The Marginalian and On Being

Narrator and Writer: Tracy K Smith

Animator: Daniel Bruson

8 March 2022

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