Singing in The Rain: In Space!

Let’s say you wanted to remake a movie musical and for some reason, you were really attached to Singing in the Rain. Maybe it was a fond part of your childhood, you’re not alone . And your new take: Singing in the Rain: In Space! Now, one of the most iconic scenes in the movies was filmed in the rain, but what if you wanted to film on another planet? With scientific accuracy, of course.
Coloured irises weren’t discovered until filming was finished. Image: Wiki Commons
There are a few feasible options out there – you don’t want to be too unrealistic in your expectations.
Choice the First: Romance on the Planet of Love?
The obvious, interesting choice is Venus a mere 108 million km away from earth. You’ve decided to ignore the technological feat required to get there with an entire film crew, in fact you’ve decided to not sweat the small stuff. You only care about the rain hitting the ground.
The air quotes are there because planets aren’t real. Image: Wiki Commons
On Venus, atmospheric water bonds with sulfur dioxide to form blooming clouds of sulfuric acid. This may cause a potential problem. You would have to chase the clouds too – the top cloud layer races around the planet, driven by hurricane force winds at around 360 km/h. But possibly the biggest downfall of Venus is that the immense surface temperature evaporates the sulfuric acid before it can reach the ground. At 470˚C its above the melting point of lead; your cameras would melt while filming! But most importantly, you can’t really film evaporated rain…
Conclusion: Actors would complain about chronic melty face.
Outcome: Rejected.
I didn’t want to look for melted faces, so here’s some puppies. Image credit: Lisa L Wiedmeier via Flickr
Choice 2: Ooh Shiny 
Perhaps we could extend our definition of rain and visit Jupiter for a visually stunning rainfall. On this gas giant, the environment is just right to have diamond rain.  These aren’t the perfectly cut diamonds you might be picturing, but it’s definitely dramatic.
Diamonds don’t grow on trees, but they can fall from the sky. Image credit (edited): Marilyn Brinker via Flickr
Jupiter (God of Thunder and Lightning) is aptly named: every common lightning bolt on Jupiter is equivalent to a “superbolt” down on earth. First, lightning storms turn atmospheric methane into carbon soot.  Then, carbon clusters together and binds to create graphite. Under the high pressure of the atmosphere, the graphite is compressed, transforming it into diamonds. To make a diamond on earth, 725,000 pounds per square inch is required. Through a combination of intense heat and pressure diamonds about the size of peas (about 1cm) are formed in the same way.
An uncut diamond is a girl’s…work acquaintance. Image credit: Dave Fischer via Wiki Commons
“Light hitting falling diamond might create an award winning shot, but its not true to the source material” I hear you cry, “I need liquid rain.” Luckily, as the diamond falls from the region where it’s stable, to lower altitudes, the temperature and pressure grow so great that the diamonds melt into its liquid state. You now have liquid rain: problem solved.
Unfortunately, Jupiter is a gas giant. Which means no surface to film on.
Conclusion: Dancing on air is hard when it’s not metaphorical.
Outcome: Rejected.
Third Choice: Burning Desires
Saturn’s largest moon would be the next choice and is the only world where liquid rain hits a solid surface (besides earth obviously). So all the technicalities are accounted for. Titan rains liquid methane, an extremely flammable liquid. That could be impressive.
Adele is going to fight you on this one. Image Credit: Martin Fisch via Flickr
Of course, you would have to arrive at the right time: rain only occurs once every 100-1000 years. But, once it starts, rain can pour for up to 100 hours. Surely you can capture the perfect moment in that amount of time? Also, compared to earth where around 50-65% of the sky is covered with clouds, Titan boasts 0.3-0.6% cloud coverage. For the rest of the filming, you’ll have perfect access to the sun.
You’ll need it: average temperature on Titan is 94K (-179˚C). But hey, you said you only care about the rain.
Conclusion: You can’t be cold if the rain’s on fire.
Outcome: We have a winner.
Though this might honestly be safer… Image Credit: Alex Berger via Flickr

7 Responses to “Singing in The Rain: In Space!”

  1. cameronm2 says:

    So entertaining! Titan’s a great call. I think my hair has below average flame resistance though so when i become a musical director, ill buy a big balloon to stand on and try out Jupiter. At least i hope Jupiter would be a more hair friendly place to shoot.

  2. Ruby Lieber says:

    What a great topic! Really great writing, it was super engaging and you managed to fit a lot science in too. I now know a lot more about space rain and would definitely want to watch this movie if it ever became possible!

  3. Julian Carlin says:

    Interesting brief tour of the some possible locales Will! I’d be interested in whether Mars may be another potential: the thin atmosphere makes clouds pretty impossible, but a good dust storm might provide the appearance of some sort of downpour. Mars also has a solid surface and gravity there is weaker – allowing for some easier jumping on lampposts to boot.

  4. arrigoe says:

    William, combining science and musicals, amusing but also informative, great work colleague!

  5. Tahlia says:

    Wow! So interesting!

  6. William McDonald says:

    Thanks Richard! Maybe we can reshoot the opening credits of Friends?

  7. Richard Proudlove says:

    Great post. As Prof Brian Cox would say, our solar system is “amazing”!

    What about “I’m singing in the giant fountains erupting from the south pole of Enceladus”?