How Netflix’s ‘Don’t Look Up’ got astronomy right with NASA NEO scientist

As a professor at the University of Arizona’s College of Science, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Amy Mainzer knows a lot about space.

Her work primarily focuses on assessing the dangers flying objects, like meteors, pose to earth. In addition, she is also the primary lead for NASA’s Near-Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor mission, a project that hopes to study asteroids and comets in our solar system.

With that kind of background, Mainzer might well be a character in a real-life version of “Don’t Look Up,” the film now on Netflix about a group of scientists who discover a planet-killing meteor hurtling toward earth.

She’s not in the movie, but you will see her name in the credits.

Amy Mainzer, professor, principal investigator, NEOWISE and NEO Surveyor

Mainzer, who has spent her career studying meteors and comets, served as the technical astronomy advisor for the movie. That’s an official way of saying, when the actors talked about space, she made sure they got it right.

And one thing they got right, she says, is that the scientific discoveries are only part of the challenge. The rest of the challenge is persuading people to do something about them.