Alien 1979

Belcourt Theatre Nashville, TN


Dr. Steve Howell

Project Scientist on the Kepler Mission, NASA Ames Research Center


Dr. Barbara Cohen

Planetary Scientist at NASA's Marshall Flight Center


Dr. Linda Kah

Kenneth G. Walker Associate Professor of Carbonate Sedimentology and Geochemistry, University of Tennessee Knoxville

Alien— Space Exploration and Living on Other Planets

A trio of post-film speakers addressed ideas touched upon in the movie, from exploration to geology

Belcourt Theatre Nashville, TN

Film Synopsis

The commercial vessel Nostromo receives a distress call from an unexplored planet. After searching for survivors, the crew heads home only to realize that a deadly bioform has joined them.

In the deepest reaches of space, commercial towing vehicle Nostromo is heading back to Earth when it intercepts an SOS signal from a nearby planet. After a bad landing on the planet, a few members of the crew leave the ship to explore the area. Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) and his rescue team discover a bizarre pod field. But things get even stranger when a parasite bursts out of a pod and attaches itself to Kane (John Hurt). Over the objections of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), science officer Ash (Ian Holm) lets Kane back on the ship. When the parasite dies, it seems the danger is over—but not for long. From director Ridley Scott, Alien became an Academy Award-winning monster that's haunted nightmares for over 35 years.

About the Speaker

Dr. Steve Howell is a member of the Kepler science team and a specialist in research on variable and binary stars, CCD detectors and instrumentation, and ultra-high precision photometry. He developed the practice of differential photometry using CCDs and has applied the technique to ground-based exoplanet transit detections obtaining, to date, the highest precision photometry yet achieved. Dr. Howell is involved in educational outreach programs, especially those involving multi-wavelength astronomy, using ground-based and space-based telescopes. He serves on numerous review panels and was most recently a member of the National Academy of Sciences panel on NASA's Constellation system. Dr Howell worked with NASA Headquarters to help establish the Kepler guest observer office at NASA / Ames research center and now works at NASA Ames as the project scientist of the Kepler mission.

Barbara Cohen
is the leader of the planetary science group at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and a member of the Mars Exploration Rover science team. Dr. Cohen earned her BS in geology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and her PhD in planetary science from the University of Arizona. Currently, Dr. Cohen is a principal investigator on multiple NASA SMD projects and is a co-investigator on several spacecraft and instrument proposal teams. She is the principal investigator for the Lunar Flashlight mission, which will send a cubesat to the Moon in 2018 to search for water ice frost. Her current science interests concentrate on understanding the importance of impact craters in the solar system.

Dr. Linda Kah
is a University of Tennessee professor of carbonate sedimentology and geochemistry, who is helping to investigate possible inhabitable environments off Earth as part of the Mars Science Laboratory mission. Her focus is on integrating sedimentology, stratigraphy, geochemistry, and paleobiology in understanding the evolution of the Earth’s biosphere. Research projects include reconstructing the ocean-atmospheric oxygenation and the redox structure of Mesoproterozoic shallow marine systems, exploring the effects of changing ocean circulation on the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event (GOBE), and characterizing microbe-mineral interactions in the mineralization of Holocene lacustrine microbialites.