The Art Of Exoplanets: How Do You Visualize Distant Worlds That You Can’t See?

Written by: Pat Brennan in the PIONIC Site:

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.

Contine Reading, seeing more visuals and two videos at:

The Art Of Exoplanets

 

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