This Real World 'Space Opera' Lets You Become the Hubble Telescope

By Rae Paoletta on at

It’s easy to feel small and insignificant in the grandiose scope of the universe, because we are. At the same time, as Carl Sagan once reminded us, we’re made of the same “star stuff” as the cosmos. All too often, we forget how random, ridiculous, and resplendent it is to part of the stellar sorority of the universe. That’s why art, specifically movies like Eliza McNitt’s Fistful of Stars, is important—it reacquaints us with humanity’s small and stupid and somehow very special place in the cosmos.

Fistful of Stars is a five minute-long virtual reality experience that takes the viewer on a tour through the vast star-forming region known as the Orion Nebula. Its hauntingly beautiful images, accompanied by The Hubble Cantata—which includes a 30 piece ensemble, a 100 person choir, and two singers from the Metropolitan Opera—gives the film a 2001 feel without the murderous robots.

“It’s a combination of science and magical realism,” director Eliza McNitt told Gizmodo. “We wanted to give users the feeling as if they were a star floating on stellar winds through the Orion Nebula. That could take billions of years but we wanted to give you the experience of that spectacular journey through five minutes.”

Humans have never ventured into the Orion Nebula, because it’s roughly 1,500 lightyears away. Peering into its cloudy heart, Hubble has found some of the most beautiful chaos of star birth ever captured. As its name suggests, Fistful of Stars masterfully captures the beauty within our otherwise bellicose universe. I still can’t decide whether the whole thing is a cause or cure for an existential crisis.

The Orion Nebula. (Image: NASA)

“The Orion Nebula is a place thousands of lightyears away where no human has ever been,” McNitt said. “Fistful of stars offers humans an experience...where you get to become the eyes of the human telescope.”

Though the film originally premiered back in March at SXSW, it’s finally available on Vice’s Samsung VR channel. If you don’t have VR gear, you can check still check it out without a headset here, in 360 video.