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Posts Tagged ‘nebula’

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 crated.com. 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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Exoplanet in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Exoplanet in Large Magellanic Cloud
Exoplanet in the Large Magellanic Cloud (cropped here)

It has been quite some time since I’ve created a work of astronomical art. Strike that. It’s been some time since I’ve finished a work of astronomical art. In fact I’ve not done a very good job of adding such art to my web site. No I didn’t make a new year’s resolution to do more astronomical art. I’m not sure what possessed me to take a break from my other projects and create this piece of art. Last year I had started work on an exoplanet project. I had painted a number of exoplanets and for a while was quite devoted to it. One of the things I did was to create a database of both the exoplanets and their stars. I previously wrote about this initial foray in The Small Stars of Exoplanets.

My plan was to use both my art and an analysis of the data I’d collected to create a presentation on exoplanets. This would be an addition to my current lineup of lectures, talks, and presentations (I should point out that I do space exploration and astronomy presentations in my role as President of the Chicago Society for Space Studies and as a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador).

Artistic Inspiration

The artwork consists of three main components: the exoplanet, the nebula, and the stars. While the exoplanet was drawn solely from my imagination, the nebula was inspired by NGC 2035. In fact, the specific image that I used as a reference is The star formation region NGC 2035 imaged by the ESO Very Large Telescope. This image is described as:

The Large Magellanic Cloud is one of the closest galaxies to our own. Astronomers have now used the power of the ESO’s Very Large Telescope to explore NGC 2035, one of its lesser known regions, in great detail. This new image shows clouds of gas and dust where hot new stars are being born and are sculpting their surroundings into odd shapes. But the image also shows the effects of stellar death – filaments created by a supernova explosion.

Artistic Process

I created this art using only Adobe Photoshop CS4 and my Wacom tablet. I used a variety of custom brushes I had previously created specifically for painting astronomical art.

My first step was to paint the neublar structure. I did this using a variety of brushes. One feature that greatly increased the flexibility I had was to take advantage of Photoshop’s brush mode option. The mode option makes it possible for your new brush strokes to interact with previous brush strokes in different ways. This is a very useful technique that is most probably greatly underused as I don’t think I’ve ever seen it mentioned in any astronomical art tutorials for Photoshop.

Having completed the nebula, my next step was to create the starfield. I did this on a separate Photoshop layer. Separating the stars from the nebula allows me to work on the two independently. It’s worth pointing out that this is a fictional starfield. For the starfield the main question I had to answer was sharp or soft: did I want stars with sharp edges or soft edges. I opted for soft edges because the first stars I painted were those in front of the nebula.

I created my exoplanet in a separate Photoshop document. I did this for several reasons. First and most important I wanted to create the planet on a scale much larger than the size it would have in the final composition. Second, because the planet involved a number of layers, I wanted to keep them together as a separate document. This path facilitates my ability to reuse all or part of this exoplanet for other projects.

Once I was satisfied with my exoplanet, I copied the planet as a single layer back to my original Photoshop document. I now resized and positioned the exoplanet. Fortunately I knew exactly where I wanted to place the planet and used that knowledge in creating my exoplanet. To better tie the exoplanet to the nebula, I arranged for the cloud structure to continue the nebula’s pattern as can be seen by observing the 3:00 position of the exoplanet’s limb. Okay – that might be a little difficult to observe since the original painting is 20 x 15 inches and what is shown here, if printed, would only be 2 x 1 inches.

Exoplanet in the Large Magellanic Cloud Digital Painting

To see the uncropped version, as well as some small full-size sections, see Exoplanet in the Large Magellanic Cloud Digital Painting. I’ve added this artwork to my Space Art Gallery as well as to my Astronomical Art Gallery. As is my custom, I’ve limited the number of limited edition prints for this piece to five.

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