VIDEO: Artists Use Scientific Data To Imagine Exoplanets, Other Astrophysical Phenomena
By NASA // June 10, 2017
planets revealed by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope
ABOVE VIDEO: How do you visualize distant worlds that you can’t see? A team of artists uses scientific data to imagine exoplanets and other astrophysical phenomena.
(NASA) – The moon hanging in the night sky sent Robert Hurt’s mind into deep space — to a region some 40 light years away, in fact, where seven Earth-sized planets crowded close to a dim, red sun.
Hurt, a visualization scientist at Caltech’s IPAC center, was walking outside his home in Mar Vista, California, shortly after he learned of the discovery of these rocky worlds around a star called TRAPPIST-1 and got the assignment to visualize them.
The planets had been revealed by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and ground-based observatories.
“I just stopped dead in my tracks, and I just stared at it,” Hurt said in an interview. “I was imagining that could be, not our moon, but the next planet over – what it would be like to be in a system where you could look up and see continental features on the next planet.”
So began a kind of inspirational avalanche.
Hurt and his colleague, multimedia producer Tim Pyle, developed a series of arresting, photorealistic images of what the new system’s tightly packed planets might look like — so tightly packed that they would loom large in each other’s skies.
Their visions of the TRAPPIST-1 system would appear in leading news outlets around the world.
Artists like Hurt and Pyle, who render vibrant visualizations based on data from Spitzer and other missions, are hybrids of sorts, blending expertise in both science and art. From squiggles on charts and columns of numbers, they conjure red, blue and green worlds, with half-frozen oceans or bubbling lava.
Or they transport us to the surface of a world with a red-orange sun fixed in place, and a sky full of planetary companions.
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