BENNUVAL! Celebrates the Spirit of Human Curiosity


The night sky has always captivated humankind.

To ancient peoples, celestial bodies were the gods and goddesses, and their movements became the myths that told how the world came to be. Today, scientists are reaching beyond Earth with telescopes and spacecraft, searching for clues about how the world came to be.

The same spirit of curiosity and exploration that extends across human history also unites different fields of study, from the sciences to the humanities.

To celebrate both the science and stories of space, University of Arizona science and humanities professors will join with local musicians, artists and special guests at the Fox Tucson Theatre on Saturday, Dec. 1 to present BENNUVAL!, a family-friendly variety show.

Dante Lauretta

Dante Lauretta is the OSIRIS-REx principal investigator and a UArizona professor of planetary science.

This is the second edition of BENNUVAL!, created by OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta. The first, in September 2015, showcased Tucson as a hub for innovation and creativity, in both the scientific and artistic realms.

The inaugural show, which took place one year prior to the launch of OSIRIS-REx, generated excitement about the mission to return a sample of the asteroid Bennu to Earth. This year, BENNUVAL! is timed to coincide with the arrival of OSIRIS-REx at Bennu.

BENNUVAL! is presented by the UA College of Humanities, which named Lauretta its Alumnus of the Year in 2017. Lauretta, who studied Japanese as one of his triple majors at the UA, says his humanities background has been valuable in working with colleagues in the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA.

“Scientists are creative and they are curious. I believe art and science are different facets of the same human drive,” he says. “They both reach down into those core questions that drive every one of us: Where did we come from? Are we alone in the universe? Why are we here?”

BENNUVAL! will feature a “TED-style talk” from Lauretta about the origin of life and the importance of asteroids, including details about both the OSIRIS-REx mission and JAXA’s similar Hayabusa2 probe.

College of Humanities professors will share the myths and stories that inspired the names of the space missions and the asteroids. Professors in East Asian studies will focus on the Japanese folklore and how modern Japanese pop culture incorporates both folklore and science fiction.

A UA Egyptologist will present on the myths of Osiris and Bennu, and Lauretta will share insights into how those ancient stories are related to the mission, as well as the latest imagery and data from the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft exploration of asteroid Bennu.

“Human cultures have always looked to the stars as they sought answers about the meaning of life,” College of Humanities Dean Alain-Philippe Durand says. “The names from those stories and myths are now the names of the planets, stars, asteroids, and the space missions that go to explore them. The study of humanities and human cultures has always been closely intertwined with the scientific search for answers about our world. Dante Lauretta is an inspiring representation of that connection.”

A true variety show, BENNUVAL! will also feature Emmy Award-winning host Geoff Notkin, improv comedy from Unscrewed Theater, readings of space poetry the UA Poetry Center, music from ChamberLab composer Chris Black, and performances by the renowned acrobatic ensemble Cirque Roots.

Tickets are $10 for the general public and $6 for students and CatCard holders, and are available at the Fox Tucson Theatre.

BENNUVAL! Presenters:

Geoff Notkin, Emmy Award-winning host and producer of Meteorite Men

Selections from the 2016 exhibit The Poetry of Spaceflight, UA Poetry Center

Unscrewed Theater improv comedy

Takashi Miura and Nathaniel Smith, UA Assistant Professors of East Asian Studies

Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator and UA Professor of Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry

Pearce Paul Creasman, UA Associate Professor of Dendrochronology and Egyptian Archaeology

Chris Black, ChamberLab composer

Cirque Roots



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