Ground control to all wannabe Major Toms: It’s been 51 years since Yuri Gagarin became the first human to breach the atmosphere and reach the expansive void of space. It’s a milestone that may make the graying space-watchers who remember the Russian cosmonaut’s flight feel old, but one that remains significant to us all. As the International Space Station, communications satellites, and vast quantities of space junk orbit overhead, it’s easy to take Gagarin’s accomplishment for granted -- a feat marginally more remarkable (these days) than a cross-country plane flight -- rather than one humanity dreamed of achieving for millennia. Recapturing this sense of wonder is the goal of Yuri’s Night, a yearly celebration held at sites around the world to mark the anniversary of humanity reaching the heavens. It may be a sobering achievement, but fortunately it doesn’t need to be commemorated soberly. At the San Francisco satellite of Yuri’s Night, the California Academy of Sciences invites space enthusiasts to enjoy libations while exploring Gagarin’s legacy and the wonders of the universe. Space Oddities assembles researchers from UC Berkeley’s Space Science Laboratory to discuss the heavenly phenomena that seemingly defy logic, to rekindle the sense of awe that captivated those alive in 1961: the magnetic clockwork of celestial bodies, cataclysmic supernovas, and enigmatic black holes. Music is provided by the Space Cowboys, while those who yearn for the noiseless music of the stars can repair to a “silent disco” in the piazza designed to approximate the sublime quietude of space.
Thu., April 12, 6 p.m., 2012