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Archive for the ‘Planet Earth As Art’ Category

2019 Year in Review

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

Youtube A Noise Reconstruction of Nighthawks
A movie still from A Noise Reconstruction of Nighthawks by Edward Hopper on Youtube at

2019 was a challenging year largely due to the pursuit of too many projects and interests. In a typical year, my time is divided between creative coding, digital art, photography, web work, developing and delivering presentations, attempting to keep up with developments in space exploration, managing Chicago Society for Space Studies, and work on other projects.

Web Work and Professional Programming

I spent a lot of hours doing web work and writing Python programs as a consultant contractor for the National Space Society. This role led to my acceptance of an offer in March to serve as the Director of Information Systems for the National Space Society. Then in September, I accepted the offer to also serve as the society’s Data Protection Officer (an EU GDPR thing).

I also took the opportunity to redesign the Chicago Society for Space Studies website – converting it from a mobile-friendly design I created using the Bootstrap framework to a mobile-friendly WordPress 5 (Gutenberg) website using a modified ElegantThemes Divi theme. is definitely the better for it and in hindsight, I am very glad that I did it.

Unfortunately, during 2019 I did barely any work at all on any of my personal websites. Looking back I was taken by surprise to see that my last blog post was last March.

Planet Earth as Art Book Project

Planet Earth as Art Book

I did make some progress on my book project Planet Earth as Art but fell far short of my objective of completing and publishing the book before mid-2019. In fact, I have spent very little time on the book over the last 6 months. I really do need to re-order my priorities so that I get this project done.

Space Haiku Book Project

space haiku word cloud
Space haiku word cloud

In 2019 I started work on a book of haiku whose theme is space exploration and space settlement. At this point I have written about 120 haiku and have created 20 odd illustrations for the book. Given that the focus of the book is on the written word, I have opted to go with all black and white illustrations, which substantially lowers the cost of the book – which means that its price will be affordable. The image above is a word cloud revealing the most frequently used words with font size keyed to how often the word appears in the haikus.

Creative Coding

Planet Earth as Art Book
Generative Art Experiment in Competing Painters

During 2019 I did next to nothing in the way of creative coding. The time that I would have normally spent creating generative art programs was replaced by time spent writing Python programs for data processing applications.

In December I did begin work on one new generative art program. The image above, titled Generative Art Experiment in Competing Painters is the first generative artwork produced by that program. The program works as a generative combinator with competing brush sets sampling multiple source images to create a single output image. The program needs much more development work to increase its versatility but I’m not sure when I’ll budget the time to make it happen.


I did not give very many talks during 2019. However, I was credentialed as both a National Space Society Space Ambassador and as the NSS SA subject matter expert on space economics. This is in addition to my being a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador, founder of the Chicago Society for Space Studies Speakers Bureau, and doing my own art and web related presentations. Unfortunately, my Artsnova Art Lectures and Presentations page is not current and I’m not sure when I’ll get to updating it.

My best attended presentation for the year was for my talk about my Planet Earth as Art book given to the Northwest Suburban Astronomy Club at Schaumburg Library.

My most enjoyable talk of the year was a presentation I gave at the 2019 International Space Development Conference (ISDC). My presentation Robotic Space Settlement presented arguments for maximizing the use of robots for space industrialization in order to minimize economic costs and development time. This was something of a contrarian presentation as the focus of the ISDC is on human space settlement.

At ISDC I was also a panelist for the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) Resources and Standards Workshop, which was a part of the Moon Architecture and Engineering programming track. This was a rather large panel which included Dr. Philip Metzger (University of Central Florida) as moderator, and as panelists Dr. Paul Van Susante (Michigan Technological University), Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis (University of Southern California), Dr. Haym Benaroya (Rutgers University), Peter Kokh (Moon Society), John C. Mankins (Moon Village Association), Dr. Marc Cohen (Astrotecture Inc.), Dr. Pascal Lee (Mars
Institute), and Dr. Margaret Race (SETI Institute).

Personal Vacation

Great Smokey Mountains National Park
Great Smokey Mountains National Park

My wife Jennifer and I visited Great Smokey Mountains National Park in the spring with a focus on hiking the park’s many trails. We were fortunate that there had been rain and snow the week preceding our visit so water levels were higher than normal. During our hikes, my photographic focus was on water. Over the course of our visit I took at least 200 photographs of water with the wishful thinking objective of publishing a photo book on the subject. Of course that book must get in line behind my other book projects.

As beautiful as the rushing waters were, the panoramic views from various high points were not to be ignored. Quite a stunning contrast from the suburbs of Chicago.

Great Smokey Mountains National Park from Andrews Bald
The view to the south east from Andrews Bald along the Forney Ridge Trail south of the Clingmans Dome Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Goals for 2020

My top goal for 2020 is to consolidate and into a single website. I am also going to review consolidating content from a couple of my other websites. In short, I’d like to make my life easier by focusing my attentions on fewer websites.

And of course, I really do need to finish work on my Planet Earth as Art book.

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Windycon Science Fiction Convention 2018

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

Northern Storm on Jupiter space art
Northern Storm on Jupiter, a 36 by 24 inch framed original digital painting

Tomorrow I head out for the Windycon 2018 Science Fiction Convention to set up for the convention’s art show. One of the artworks that I’ll have in the art show is Northern Storm on Jupiter (shown above). I’ll also be participating in the convention’s programming. I’ll be giving two presentations, moderating a panel discussion, and serving as a panelist on two other panels.

The first of the two presentations I’ll be giving is Planet Earth as Art: The View From Space in which I use images primarily from the Landsat 8 remote sensing satellite to present Earth as a work of art. In fact doing this presentation has inspired me to undertake a book project. You can learn more about the forthcoming book at Planet Earth as Art – The Book. I also would encourage you to sign up for the associated newsletter.

The other presentation I’ll be giving is The Future of Human Space Exploration which is a rather wide ranging talk about various aspects of space development, commercial space, and space policy. I’ll be giving this presentation as both the President of the Chicago Society for Space Studies and as a National Space Society Space Ambassador.

In terms of panels, I’ll be moderating the panel Commercial Asteroid Mining whose title is self-explanatory. By coincidence a few weeks ago I found myself sharing a banquet table with a former employee of Planetary Resources – which led to an interesting discussion. The dinner was a part of the American Astronomical Society’s Division of Planetary Science meeting. For the AAS to call this a meeting is somewhat misleading since it is held in a convention center, is a week long, features a number of exhibitors, and has a lot of presentations.

I’ll also be on the Talking Tesla panel which is not about Nikola Telsa the electrical engineer nor about the electric car that is now orbiting the Sun. This panel will be talking about Elon Musk and his various activities. While I’m not qualified to talk about the man, though I did get to meet him years ago when SpaceX was a new company, I have followed the progress of SpaceX as well as Musk’s views on artificial intelligence.

Lastly there is the panel We Spy in Peace? in which we are asked to speculate on the question of "Is there life elsewhere in the universe?" and more provocatively "Do we have the right to spy on them?". Freedom of the airwaves clearly dictates that the answer must be yes. What do you think?

So if you’re reading this and find yourself at Windycon this weekend, I’d love to have you attend one of my presentations or panels. Or track me down and bend my ear a while. And don’t forget to check out the art I’ll have in the con’s art show.

I’ll leave you with this thought from film producer Ridley Scott (Blade Runner 2049, The Martian, Prometheus, etc.): "In science fiction, we’re always searching for new frontiers. We’re drawn to the unknown." And Windycon will certainly have its fair share of exploring the unknown.

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Anak Krakatau aka Krakatoa Volcano

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Landsat image of Krakatau Volcano
Landsat image of Krakatau Volcano

I’m not sure what possessed me to seek out a Landsat image of Anak Krakatau (aka the Krakatoa Volcano) at this time – but I did. In my presentation Planet Earth As Art: The View From Space I do include images of several volcanoes so perhaps adding Krakatau was in the back of my mind. Whatever the reason, the Anak Krakatau Volcano is the latest addition to my Planet Earth Satellite Imagery Gallery on Redbubble.

In processing the raw Landsat image files (separate 16-bit black and white images for the red, green, and blue channels along with the panchromatic image for luminosity), I employed a work flow that had a number of differences from work flows I’ve previously used to process satellite images. Of course I tend to employ a slightly different work flow with every satellite remote sensing image I process since I have no interest in creating a workflow “recipe” and don’t bother to document the processing steps I do take.

Krakatau (Krakatoa) Original Landsat Red, Green, Blue, Panchromatic Images Stacked
Krakatau (Krakatoa) Original (Non-Processed) Landsat Red, Green, Blue, Panchromatic Images Stacked

The challenge with this particular image was to visually magnify the contrast of the waters of the Sunda Strait and to brighten the image without blowing out the cloud details. Unfortunately since I kept no notes as to the specific steps I took to get from the raw input to the final output I can’t precisely recreate what I did. This is unfortunate because the results turned out better than I had expected.

Enough about the image processing – it’s time to talk about the volcano and the major features in the image. For reference purposes, use the following map to identify key features in the image.

Map of the region of Krakatau Volcano in Indonesia south of Sumatra
Map of the region of Krakatau Volcano in Indonesia south of Sumatra

Rajabasa is an isolated 1280 meter high stratovolcano located at the southeastern coast of the island of Sumatra. The summit crater is approximately 600 meters in diameter. It is not known when this ancient volcano last erupted.

Sebuku is a low lying island in the eastern part of Lampung Bay and is only 2.5 kilometers north of Sebesi island. Sebuku is also of volcanic origin and probably dates to the Quaternary – the most recent period in the Cenozoic era.

Sebesi is about 12 kilometers north of the Krakatoa islands. While it is volcanic, there are no known dated eruptions. Inhabited at the time of the 1883 eruption of Krakatau, estimates are that some 3,000 people on the island lost their lives as a consequence of that eruption.

Sertung, also known as Verlaten, is another volcanic island a mere 2 kilometers west of Anak Krakatau. Unlike the island of Krakatau which lost about two-thirds of its area in the cataclysmic 1883 eruption, Sertung temporarily tripled in size due to the volcanic fallout (pumice) from the eruption but much of that gain quickly eroded away.

Panjang, also known as Lang and as Pulau Krakatau Kitjil, is the small island about 2 kilometers east of Anak Krakatau.

Krakatau and Rakata are the remains of the original island of Krakatau which was destroyed by the 1883 eruption. Rakata itself is one of the three volcanoes that made up the island of Krakatau – the other two having been destroyed during the 1883 eruption.

Collectively Sertung, Panjang and Rakata represent the boundaries of the large submarine volcanic caldera which is almost 8 kilometers in diameter.

Anak Krakatau (Krakatoa) Volcano - full size detail
Anak Krakatau (Krakatoa) Volcano – full size image detail

Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatoa) is a new island that emerged in 1930 following submarine volcanic eruptions and represents the center of volcanic activity for Krakatau/Krakatoa. As of 2017, Anak Krakatau’s height was over 400 meters above sea level.

The eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 was one of the most powerful eruptions in recorded history. The energy released in the eruption is estimated to have been on the order of 200 megatons of TNT, which is approximately equal to about 13,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs. The eruption also impacted global climate, causing an estimated one degree Celsius decline in the Earth’s average temperature in the year that followed – with global temperatures not getting back to normal until 1888.

If you are a fan of geology, volcanoes in general or Krakatoa in particular, I have made this image of Krakatau available on a number of products in my art gallery on Redbubble. Click either the button or image below for additional product information.

Anak Krakatau (aka Krakatoa) Volcano on Redbubble

Krakatau Volcano Merchandise and Clothing on Redbubble
Krakatau Volcano Merchandise and Clothing on Redbubble


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