Cos­mic Gaze

For Ju­lia Mil­ner, there is noth­ing more Beau­ti­ful than science. As one half of the world’s most in­flu­en­tial science phi­lan­thropy cou­ple, the former artist and model loves see­ing cut­ting-edge ex­per­i­ments up close. She is in­spired 8y both the sculp­tural gra


A former artist and model turned cos­mic en­thu­si­ast goes above and be­yond to shed light upon the pos­si­bil­i­ties of life be­yond Earth

The Parkes Ob­ser­va­tory is a sur­real sight, loom­ing over a dry, ru­ral basin some 350 kilo­me­tres west of Syd­ney, Aus­tralia. The 65-me­tre bowl of the radio te­le­scope, translu­cent white over a dark me­tal fret­work, looks al­most too vast to be sup­ported on the cylin­dri­cal tur­ret that houses its con­trol room. There the flick­er­ing con­soles and the tap­ping of com­puter key­boards are the only clues to its mis­sion: comb­ing the cos­mos in search of a lon­gawaited sig­nal from be­yond. Dressed in the sea­son’s fash­ion, Ju­lia Mil­ner cuts an alien fig­ure her­self, among its banks of di­als and mon­i­tors. But the ob­ser­va­tory is close to her heart: she and her hus­band, Yuri Mil­ner, are the founders of Break­through Lis­ten, a global astro­nom­i­cal pro­gramme that searches for ev­i­dence of civil­i­sa­tions be­yond Earth. Ju­lia is drawn to a great dish as an aes­thetic ob­ject, a unique mon­u­ment of space-age ar­chi­tec­ture; and she is cap­ti­vated by the ques­tion that it asks: Are we alone in the uni­verse? Or do we have cos­mic sib­lings? Parkes has his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance: it was the te­le­scope which re­ceived the first sig­nals from Apollo’s suc­cess­ful moon-land­ing on July 20, 1969. Should Break­through Lis­ten’s quest suc­ceed, the dish will no doubt achieve an even higher fame. For now, though, the me­thod­i­cal search con­tin­ues. With a deep whirring that breaks the con­trol room si­lence, the te­le­scope moves into a new po­si­tion, train­ing it­self onto another dis­tant gal­axy in search of far­away worlds—homes, per­haps, to alien cul­tures, with their own great works of science and beauty.

LOOK­ING UP Ju­lia wears a top and skirt by Mat­icevski, sun­glasses by Chris­tian Dior and a hand­bag by Bul­gari

GROUND CON­TROL Ju­lia wears a jump­suit by La­coste, a belt by Saint Lau­rent, heels by Fendi and a hand­bag by Gucci

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