IRrelevant Astronomy is a Web series produced by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Each episode explains a general science concept or reveals science news relevant to Spitzer. The "IR" in the title stands for "infrared", making the title refer to "infrared-relevant astronomy." The first episode launched on January 15, 2008 on the Spitzer Space Telescope website.
Cast and Guest Stars
Sean Astin - Well known for leading roles in such films as Goonies, Rudy, and the Lord of the Rings series, Sean first appears in the episode Part Two as a scientist struggling to save the Spitzer Space Telescope. He also provides the voice of a badly-edited audiobook in the episode Behind the Scenes: When Galaxies Collide, and appears as a fictional version of himself in Behind the Scenes: Dead Stars.
Brigitte Dale - A new media actress and producer, Brigitte voices the computer in Robot Astronomy Talk Show: Destroyer of Worlds, and stars in the episode Big Bang: The Musical.
Cameron Diaz - Acclaimed actress Cameron Diaz appears in the episode RATS In Progress: The Mass of Asteroids.
Phillip Gabriel - Phillip provides the voice of Mountie Martin in Dubya: Mountie Martin and the Space Diamonds. He also provides the voiceover for the film-within-a-film at the end of Behind the Scenes: When Galaxies Collide.
Mark Hamill - Famous for the original Star Wars trilogy, his iconic turn as the Joker in the Batman Animated series, and countless other films & TV shows, Mark provides a cameo as a fictional version of himself in the episode Robot Astronomy Talk Show: Gravity & the Great Attractor.
Buffy Henshaw - Buffy is an actress with multiple awards, including: an Aegis Award, a CINE Golden Eagle, a 2005 Inland Theatre League Award, a 2006 Inland Theatre League Award, two 2007 Inland Theatre League Awards, three 2007-2008 Season Footlighters Excellence Awards, and a Kids First "Best of Festival" award. Buffy provides voices for the episodes M51 & Gizmo, Dubya, and Psych Out. She also appears as a deluded film director in the episodes Behind the Scenes: When Galaxies Collide, Spitzer Space Telescope: The Musical, and Behind the Scenes: Dead Stars.
Sandeep Parikh - Famous for starring in The Guild as well as creating, directing, writing, and producing The Legend of Neil, Sandeep plays a fictional version of himself in the episode Behind the Scenes: Dead Stars.
Tom Phillips - Tom appears as "Flunky #2" (as well as additional Flunkies) in the episodes Behind the Scenes: When Galaxies Collide, Spitzer Space Telescope: The Musical, Behind the Scenes: Dead Stars, Big Bang: The Musical, and Fusion vs. Fission.
Mike Romo - A Los Angeles-based actor & a regular writer for the iFanboy audio podcast, Mike stars in the episode Fusion vs. Fission.
George Takei - Well known as Mr. Sulu on the original Star Trek, in addition to well-loved recurring appearances on Heroes, the Howard Stern Show, and more, George appears as a fictional version of himself in the episode Robot Astronomy Talk Show: Gravity & the Great Attractor.
Danny Tieger - A singer/songwriter living in the Los Angeles area, Danny is a prolific writer of science-based songs, among other music. He composed the themes for, and stars in, the episodes Spitzer Space Telescope: The Musical and Big Bang: The Musical.
Alan Tudyk - Known for his live-action roles in Firefly and Suburgatory, and an expansive list of voice roles including in Wreck-It Ralph, Alan voices the titular microbe in the episode Ask an Astronomy Brain Parasite.
Ed Wasser - Famous for his recurring role as the sinister Mr. Morden on Babylon 5, as well as other film & TV appearances, Ed is credited as the voice role of robot IR-2 in the Robot Astronomy Talk Show series beginning with episode 8. He also appears as robot IR-2 in the episode Spaceship Spitzer: Bots of Both Worlds.
Wil Wheaton - Starring in Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Guild, and current recurring roles on Eureka and The Big Bang Theory, Wil appears in a dual role in the episode Spaceship Spitzer: Bots of Both Worlds: as both himself & and the voice of robot co-pilot Irwin. Wil next appears as "The Physician" in the Doctor Who spoof Robot Astronomy Talk Show: Destroyer of Worlds, and cameos in the episode Ask an Astronomy Brain Parasite.
Betty White - A celebrated actress for over 50 years, Betty's filmography includes the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Golden Girls, Boston Legal, and many more films & TV shows too numerous to count. Betty voices a fictional version of herself in the episode Part Two.
Tim Pyle - director/co-creator/writer/animator/music composer/producer (2008–present) - Tim worked for 10 years as an animator in the visual effects industry, including on the cult-favorite Invader Zim. Other projects include the Academy Award nominated Jimmy Neutron, Emmy nominated series Starship Troopers: the Series, and the Emmy winning Children of Dune. He has personally won two Aegis Awards, a Telly Award, a CINE Golden Eagle, and 2006 & 2008 NASA awards for producing CG animation. He was the writer and director of Decaying Orbit, a sci-fi DVD feature.
Kenneth Kolb - producer (2009–present) - Kenneth worked 10 years with the Walt Disney Company including Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, and as a coordinator for the Disney Channel. He has worked as the CFO of the Kendrea International Corporation for the past five years, produced several indie short films, and also currently works as a producer for Hogofilm, where he assisted with the production of the feature film Decaying Orbit. He began co-producing IRrelevant Astronomy starting with the episodes released in April 2009.
Dr. Carolyn Brinkworth - science writer (2013–present) - Carolyn is a professional astronomer and educator. She graduated from the University of Southampton (U.K.) with her PhD in Astrophysics in 2005, and moved to Caltech, where she now works as the Education and Outreach Scientist for a number of NASA missions. She has been involved in education and public outreach for 15 years, since working at the U.K.‘s National Space Center in Leicester as an undergraduate, and is now studying for her MA in Education from Claremont Graduate University. In her spare time, Carolyn volunteers with The Trevor Project.
Jim Keller - co-creator/writer/producer (2008-2009, 2013) - Jim is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, AFTRA, and the Actors' Equity Association, having appeared in shows like Days of our Lives and Melrose Place. His work on NASA's Ask an Astronomer video podcast series has won a Silver Telly Award, a Bronze Telly Award, an Aegis Award, and two Aegis Finalists. Additional awards include an Aegis Award and a CINE Golden Eagle.
Austin Wintory - music composer (2008-2009) - Austin is a music composer for film, TV, and video games. He composed the score for Captain Abu Raed, a multiple award-winning film including the World Cinema Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008. The film has been submitted by the Kingdom of Jordan for a 2009 Foreign Language Oscar. Austin also composed the score to Sony's Flow video game and expansion packs for the Sony PlayStation 3 & PSP, which earned strong reviews for the quality of music.
IRrelevant Astronomy Shows
Ask an Astronomy Brain Parasite: (1 episode) Deep inside an astronomer's head, a parasite taps into his brain to learn about science.
Astronomy Anemone: (1 episode) A giant, surly man-eating sea anemone hosts an astronomy-themed talk show.
The Musical: (2 episodes) Mini-musicals, using song to teach astronomy concepts.
Behind the Scenes: (2 episodes) A mock behind-the-scenes look at the production of an educational video.
Part Two: (1 episode) A spoof of old action TV shows. The bulk of the episode shows scenes from a fictitious first episode that never existed, followed by a quick conclusion that appears to wrap everything up neatly.
Robot Astronomy Talk Show: (11 episodes) A series about robots who want to rule the Universe, while producing a talk show featuring interviews with celebrities and astronomers.
Dub'ya: (1 episode) An old movie is edited down and re-dubbed with dialogue about current Spitzer Space Telescope science.
Spaceship Spitzer: (3 episodes) Spitzer astronomer Dr. Michelle Thaller travels with a robot pilot in a spaceship based on the design of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Integrating live action and CG animation, there are currently two episodes: "Enemy Mine" and "The Slowlian Web."
M51 & Gizmo: (1 episode) Innocent alien M51 accidentally unleashes havoc on the planet Earth, and learns about how life exists in the Universe.
Fusion vs. Fission: (1 episode) Spoofing GLaDOS from the videogame series Portal, a description of nuclear fusion in the Sun.
IRrelevant Astronomy Episodes
|1||"Skinfrared #1"||Tim Pyle||Robert Hurt & Tim Pyle||January 15, 2008|
|What is infrared light? The Skinfrared series contrasts the world around us in both visible and infrared light, giving the viewer a perspective on how infrared observatories like the Spitzer Space Telescope view the Universe.|
|2||"Spaceship Spitzer: Enemy Mine"||Tim Pyle||Tim Pyle & Michelle Thaller||January 17, 2008|
|While in battle around the super-massive black hole at the center of the galaxy, Dr. Michelle Thaller teaches Irwin (IR-1) the science behind these giant singularities.|
|3||"Skinfrared #2: Water and Ice"||Tim Pyle||Robert Hurt & Tim Pyle||February 8, 2008|
|Viewing liquids in extreme temperatures in both visible and infrared light, this episode of the Skinfrared series gives viewers a perspective on how infrared observatories like the Spitzer Space Telescope view the Universe.|
|4||"RATS: Asteroids"||Tim Pyle||Jim Keller & Tim Pyle||March 4, 2008|
|Will an asteroid strike the Earth and wipe out all life as we know it? IR-2 and his robotic crew make random phone calls to find out.|
|5||"RATS: Water in the Universe"||Tim Pyle||Jim Keller & Tim Pyle||March 13, 2008|
|Astronomers have discovered huge amounts of water around baby stars; IR-2 and his crew plan to make use of it.|
|6||"Dub'ya: Mountie Martin and the Space Diamonds"||Tim Pyle||Tim Pyle||April 21, 2008|
|Are tiny diamonds really common in the Universe? Join the intrepid Mountie Martin as he endeavors to find out, while on the trail of the sinister Sammy the Smuggler!|
|7||"RATS: Baby Stars"||Tim Pyle||Jim Keller & Tim Pyle||May 16, 2008|
|Where do stars come from? IR-2 analyzes recent Spitzer imagery to find out, while an imposing Ratings-bot oversees the broadcast.|
|8||"RATS: Omega Centauri"||Tim Pyle||Jim Keller & Tim Pyle||July 2, 2008|
|While the robots are away, a sad and lonely man calls in with a beautiful image of the Omega Centauri globular cluster.|
|9||"RATS: The Building Blocks of Life"||Tim Pyle||Jim Keller & Tim Pyle||July 21, 2008|
|IR-2 and his crew learn about PAHs, which may be the building of all life in the Universe, and decide to put them to good use.|
|10||"Psych Out"||Tim Pyle||Jim Keller & Tim Pyle||August 25, 2008|
|Does the Helix Nebula look like a human eye? Why do we think we see well-known objects in nebulous images from space? An astronomer and his therapist clash over the issue in this comedic but educational animated short.|
|11||"RATS: Sculpting with Stars"||Tim Pyle||Jim Keller & Tim Pyle||October 22, 2008|
|IR-2 opens diplomatic relations with the Earth, as a first step toward ruling over all humans on the planet.|
|12||"Spaceship Spitzer: The Slowlian Web"||Tim Pyle||Tim Pyle & Michelle Thaller||November 25, 2008|
|During a tense face-off with a sinister (but extremely slow-moving) alien race, Dr. Michelle Thaller shows Irwin (IR-1) how scientists can determine what exrasolar planets are made of, even when the planets are too far away to see.|
|13||"M51 & Gizmo: Half-Baked Plan"||Tim Pyle||Jim Keller & Tim Pyle||January 23, 2009|
|Hoping for his birthday to come around sooner, innocent alien M51 moves the Earth into a closer, faster orbit around the sun, and learns an important lesson life in the Universe.|
|14||"RATS: Twin Brown Dwarfs"||Tim Pyle||Jim Keller & Tim Pyle||March 11, 2009|
|While the trapped in an interdimensional portal between two brown dwarfs, IR-2 and the robot encounter their evil twins from an alternate universe.|
|15||"RATS: Gravity and the Great Attractor"||Tim Pyle||Jim Keller & Tim Pyle||April 23, 2009|
|George Takei, Mark Hamill, and Ed Wasser, provide voices as IR-2 and the robot crew take a look at the Great Attractor, a massive hidden object that is pulling in every nearby galaxy in the local Universe (including our own).|
|16||"Part Two: The Warm Mission"||Tim Pyle||Tim Pyle||June 22, 2009|
|In this spoof of old TV action shows, Sean Astin, Osa Wallander, and Betty White search for a way to help the Spitzer Space Telescope after it runs out of coolant.|
|17||"RATS: Back in Time"||Tim Pyle||Jim Keller & Tim Pyle||August 24, 2009|
|Linda Hamilton attempts to foil the robots' plans of Universal conquest; meanwhile, Dean Stockwell explains the concept of "looking back in time" at objects in space, and how it helps astronomers understand how the Universe has evolved. Starring Ed Wasser as the voice of IR-2.|
|18||"Behind the Scenes: When Galaxies Collide"||Tim Pyle||Tim Pyle||October 26, 2009|
|Felicia Day explains some of the science behind galactic "collisions", including the upcoming collision between the galaxy Andromeda and our own galaxy, in this mock behind-the-scenes look at the making of an educational video. Sean Astin also stars.|
|19||"Spitzer Space Telescope: The Musical"||Tim Pyle||Jim Keller, Tim Pyle, Danny Tieger||March 9, 2010|
|A singing NASA supervisor uses song to explain about NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, and how infrared astronomy differs from visible-light telescopes like Hubble. Featuring an original song performed by Danny Tieger.|
|20||"Spaceship Spitzer: Bots of Both Worlds"||Tim Pyle||Tim Pyle||May 25, 2010|
|Amy Okuda flies to Saturn to observe a new giant ring around the planet: the largest ring ever discovered in our Solar System, but one that was only recently revealed through infrared observations by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope in 2009. While there, she and Irwin (voiced by Wil Wheaton) encounter an old enemy, and must defeat their sinister plot. Ed Wasser also stars.|
|21||"Behind the Scenes: Dead Stars"||Tim Pyle||Jim Keller & Tim Pyle||August 10, 2010|
|Actor Sean Astin is hired by a bullying educational film Director and her Flunky #2 sidekick to explain about the life and death of stars. But when things go wrong on the set, actor Sandeep Parikh is hired to replace Sean...only to have things take a bizarre twist.|
|22||"RATS: Destroyer of Worlds"||Tim Pyle||Jim Keller & Tim Pyle||November 27, 2010|
|Robot IR-2 (Ed Wasser) meets The Physician (Wil Wheaton), an intergalactic buttinsky in a small blue box spaceship. Together, they work to escape "The Destroyer of Worlds", a binary star system that is destroying its inner planets. With: Brigitte Dale|
|23||"Astronomy Anemone"||Tim Pyle||Kenneth Kolb & Tim Pyle||February 15, 2011|
|Veronica Belmont co-hosts a space-themed talk show with Astronomy Anemone, a carnivorous man-eating sea polyp. WARNING: Contains scenes of cartoon violence and scientific jargon.|
|24||"Big Bang: The Musical"||Tim Pyle||Tim Pyle, Danny Tieger||March 18, 2011|
|Did you know radiation from the Big Bang can be seen on any analogue TV set? In this mini-musical, a young couple (Brigitte Dale, Marc Helou) discusses the real science behind this, while arguing over what to watch on TV. Original song written & performed by Danny Tieger.|
|25||"RATS In Progress: The Mass of Asteroids"||Tim Pyle||Jim Keller & Tim Pyle||February 26, 2013|
|Cameron Diaz teaches Robot IR-2 how astronomers can measure the mass of asteroids from tremendous distances.|
|26||"Ask an Astronomy Brain Parasite"||Tim Pyle||Tim Pyle||July 16, 2013|
|Deep inside an astronomer's head, a parasite (voiced by Alan Tudyk) taps into his brain to learn about...science! Specifically, about why astronauts appear weightless in space. Featuring Wil Wheaton.|
|27||"Fusion vs. Fission"||Tim Pyle||Tim Pyle||February 12, 2014|
|When a science-mad A.I. system is installed at NASA, two hapless computer technicians (Casey McKinnon, Mike Romo) learn the process behind nuclear fusion in the Sun, and how it differs from fission. Starring Ellen McLain as the voice of NOTGLaDOS.|
On October 19, 2008, IRrelevant Astronomy was nominated for "Best Technology/Science Podcast" at the 2008 Podcast Awards. It was one of 10 finalists in this category following a nomination process that included 281,000 votes. In October 2009, the IRrelevant Astronomy episode "Psych Out" was an official selection at the 2nd annual Imagine Science Film Festival. The IRrelevant Astronomy episode "M51 & Gizmo" has previously won multiple awards including an Aegis Award, CINE Golden Eagle, and winning a "Best of Festival" award at the Kids First Film Festival.