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Posts Tagged ‘Constellation’

Orion Nebula Sans Stars Astronomical Art

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Orion Nebula Sans Stars Astronomical Art
Orion Nebula Sans Stars Astronomical Art

Orion Nebula Sans Stars is my newest work of generative astronomical art – created using one of the generative art programs I’ve written. This is actually my second version of this artwork. I was working on the first one, had finished it, keyed in the save command and watched as my program went belly up with an out of memory error. Certainly a problem traditional artists don’t have to deal with. That version of my generative painting was 12000 by 7800 pixels. Restarting I went with a scaled down canvas size of 10200 by 6600 pixels. Upon completion, I held my breath as I entered the save command and let out a sigh of relief once the save successfully completed.

As a long time fan of space and astronomy, I’ve always been fascinated by the visual wonders of our universe and the Orion Nebula has always been a favorite of mine. What is most aesthetically appealing to me is the structure and colors of the dust and gases that comprise the nebula. It is for that reason that I created this version of the nebula without any stars. For me, they’re a distraction. Of course without those stars there wouldn’t be an Orion Nebula.

If you are interested in purchasing an unwatermarked, signed, limited edition print of Orion Nebula Sans Stars, please contact me. Alternatively you can purchase an open edition print of Orion Nebula Sans Stars from Note that the open edition print is 85% of the size of the limited edition version.

About the Orion Nebula

Nebula come in several flavors. The Orion Nebula is an emission nebula meaning it is sort of a neon light in the sky. This is because the gases we are seeing have been radiatively excited by ultraviolet radiation emitted by nearby hot young stars. The Orion Nebula is also referred to as a reflection nebula and a diffuse nebula. The Orion Nebula is about 40 light years wide and is just over 1,300 light years away from us. It’s location in our sky makes it a part of the constellation Orion. In the map of the Orion Constellation below, the Orion Nebula is located at the center of the red circle.

Orion Constellation Skychart Map
Orion Constellation Skychart

At magnitude 4, the Orion Nebula is one of the brightest nebulae in our night sky and is even visible to the naked eye (unless you happen to live in a major city). The Orion Nebula was discovered independently by several astronomers in the 1600’s, the most prominent being Christiaan Huygens. It was given the designation M42 by Charles Messier when he added it to his catalog of objects in 1769.

In closing I must say that the Orion Nebula, minus its stars, makes for a wonderful work of abstract art. What do you think?

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A Personal Perspective on NASA’s New Direction

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Abandon in Place space art
Abandon in Place space art

Yesterday I had the privilege of being interviewed by Steve Grzanich, a reporter for WBBM-AM radio. The topic of our conversation was my reaction to this week’s announcement regarding NASA’s new budget and the decision to cancel both the Constellation program and NASA’s plans for a return of humans to the Moon. In the context of the interview I was speaking as an individual who also happens to be a director for the National Space Society and a vice president of the Chicago Society for Space Studies.

I would summarize my reaction to the new NASA direction as mixed. There is good news in the announcement but also bad news. My feeling is that on the whole, the announcement reflects an administration position that is soft on its support for space exploration.

On the good side is the plan to operate the International Space Station for an additional 5 years – until 2020. ISS was built to provide us with a science platform in space and I viewed it as the height of folly to terminate the station by de-orbiting it in 2015. Who but the government would spend 25 years and over $100 billion to build a laboratory and then abandon it only 4 years after its completion? I would also hope that when 2020 arrives, if ISS is still viable, that it be privatized for continued use and not deliberately destroyed as was originally planned.

The very good news was the expansion of a commitment for NASA to procure commercial launch services. This is something that the space movement has been advocating for years. Such a program was already underway in the guise of the COTS program. COTS – Commercial Orbital Transportation Services – is a program to procure the commercial delivery of cargo and crew to the International Space Station (ISS). One of the driving factors for this was the “gap” – that being the period of time between the retirement of the Space Shuttle and the availability of its replacement via the Constellation program. During this gap, the U.S. government would essentially be outsourcing its access to the space station to Russia.

Tied in with the decision to expand NASA’s procurement of commercially provided services is the administration’s decision to cancel the Constellation program. Constellation is/was the program that would provide both crew (Ares I) and cargo (Ares V) launch vehicles, a crew spacecraft (Orion), and a lunar lander (Altair). Of course there is no reason why both government and commercial launch services could not have been pursued in parallel. Make no mistake – this decision was not made because the Obama administration has become pro-space advocates of free markets. Rather it is in recognition of the fact that private enterprise can probably do the job faster and cheaper and abandoning Constellation means the cost of the Constellation program can be removed from the NASA budget.

The bad news is the cancellation of plans to return humans to the Moon which once again consigns astronauts to LEO (Low Earth Orbit). A pro-space administration would have expanded the commercial program to include calls for private industry to develop a transportation system that could deliver humans and cargo to the surface of the Moon – with NASA signing on for some number of missions. There was no need to throw out the goal of returning people to the Moon.

As to NASA’s proposed budget for the next five years, the annual increases called for will be less than the rate of inflation so NASA’s purchasing power is actually going to decline over time. Given that NASA’s 2009 budget was 18.78 billion (inclusive of stimulus funds, source:NASA Budget Summary) and the proposed 2015 budget is $20.99 billion, this works out to an annual growth rate of a paltry 1.8 percent.

On the good side, the budget will provide $4.9 billion over 5 years for a space technology development program; $3.1 billion over five years for heavy lift vehicle research (recall the newly canceled Ares V heavy lift vehicle); and $7.8 billion over five years for technology demonstrations for spaceflight technologies – if the administration keeps its word. Unfortunately all the technology examples given are technologies initiated in the past but abandoned. For example – inflatable structures. Does anyone here recall TransHab?

One disconnect I noticed was NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s claim that "Imagine trips to Mars that take weeks instead of nearly a year." This means the development of a non-chemical based propulsion system. Unfortunately there is not one word about the development of such a revolutionary system in the NASA budget statement.

While there is more to say about the new direction being set for NASA, my comments here represent my reaction to the major points announced earlier this week.

The Illustration

Abandon-in-Place is a piece that I created to voice my disappointment at the cancellation of the last three Apollo missions to the Moon – one empty spacesuit for each of the canceled Apollo missions. Given that NASA has now been told by the administration to abandon plans for a human return to the Moon, this artwork seemed an appropriate piece to use. For more information about the art, see the Abandon-in-Place web page.

Ad Astra, Jim

Postscript: The National Space Society has released a press release outlining its position on the new NASA budget. See Welcomes Sci-Tech, Private-Sector Spending In 2011 Budget, But Calls For Continued Human Spaceflight Beyond Earth Orbit

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