A look from above

Chasing an otherworldly experience

Space is vast and mysterious, so mysterious that for a long time we used to look up for the answers, and sometimes we even found them. We have always been enthralled by space and space exploration, so what answers does it provide us?

Can we get closer to knowing what is out there? Maybe not, but we can gain something greater. The excitement, curiosity maybe even a slight bit of uncomfort you will feel, keep it and use it as the building block of your own exploration.

Benjamin Grant: What it feels like to see Earth from space

In the aftermath of the first crewed spaceflight mission, Apollo 8, an intriguing quote was given by the astronauts upon landing: “We went to the moon, but we actually discovered Earth.” At first, the statement seemed peculiar, considering that the crew had been the first ones to embark on such an expedition; but then, everything changed when Bill Anders, one of the crew members, revealed a photograph—the iconic “Earthrise”. Global amazement followed. 

“While you may enjoy the aesthetics of an image, once you learn exactly what it is you’re seeing, you may struggle with the fact that you still like it.”

– Benjamin Grant

The photograph is now widely considered as one of the pillars of today’s environmental movement. Years later, a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania examined former astronauts and how their views and opinions had changed after seeing the Earth from space. They discovered that the astronauts experienced a greater appreciation for the Earth’s beauty, an increased sense of emotion and connection to other living beings. This visual truth is commonly known as the overview effect.

This story inspired Benjamin Grant to launch “Overview”, a daily feed of modern satellite imagery intended to provide an overview of our planet and essentially—to invoke the overview effect. In his talk, he suggests that recreating the aforementioned effect can be detrimental to embracing the truth and creating a better future for our one and only home.

Sarah Parcak: Hunting for Peru’s lost civilizations—with satellites

On any given day, it’s estimated that over ten thousand looted artifacts are put on sale on the black market; effectively damaging the cultural heritage of many civilizations. That’s why Sarah Parcak, a satellite archeologist, is leading a mission to find them before the looters do.

“We are making archaeological exploration more open, inclusive, and at a scale simply not previously possible.”

– Sarah Parcak

By enabling the public to help analyze the vast collection of satellite imagery in existence, she aims to make the wonder of archaeological discovery accessible to everybody. Through her organization, GlobalXplorer, volunteers are able to go through and identify any potential sites through the tiles fed by the website.

Sarah’s talk digs deeper into how this technique will help preserve cultural heritage, how the organization will help empower underdeveloped communities in Peru and how the search will expand in the future. Inspired by the discovery of the stone city of Machu Picchu and the mysterious (and endangered) Nazca Lines, the organization aims to expand the portfolio of uncovered ancient civilizations.

Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil: A rare galaxy that’s challenging our understanding of the universe

Since the first astronauts and cosmonauts arose above the world, people returned with minds inspired not solely through the awesome expanses of space, but also gripped by the new perspective of their small blue home. But what lies beyond?


“This galaxy is so peculiar, that it challenges our theories and our assumptions about how the universe works.”

– Burçin Mutlu-Pakdi

Following initial blurred and grainy experimental images of the earth, satellites and space-travellers alike began bringing back photos for the planet-bound of us to observe, allowing them too to re-evaluate planet earth and beyond. A wide variety of ways these images can be employed are clear: Reconnaissance application by the two warring states pushing the Burçin Mutlu-Pakdilspace race and the boundaries of our very imagination. 

Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil explores her discovery of a galaxy so rare and mysterious we still cannot understand it. In her talk, she introduces viewers to different rare galaxies that one was named after herself as well!