September 12, 2012:
I am happy to announce that after imaging the Venus transit and Cygnus constellation with HiMARC technology and Dr. Natalie Batalha and the Kepler Spacecraft model in the studio, the first exhibition piece for Physics In Vogue, Discoverer of Worlds, is ready! The image below features NASA's Kepler Space Telescope Mission and its method for discovering extra-solar planets by photometric transit detection.
Discoverer of Worlds - Featuring original HiMARC imagery, Dr. Natalie Batalha and NASA's Kepler Mission
I was inspired to feature the Kepler Mission as Physics In Vogue's first piece as I know firsthand just how difficult it is to do this kind of science and thanks to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to image the Venus transit. It takes painstaking dedication, brilliant minds and years of precision analysis to accomplish what the Kepler team has in so short a time. You can learn about the technology I developed behind the imagery on the HiMARC page. Check out the Get Involved page to learn how you can be a part of the extra-solar planet discovery process. Here is a color-coded breakdown of the components in Discoverer of Worlds (see map on right): The Kepler Space Telescope is NASA's first mission capable of finding Earth-size planets around other worlds. The real spacecraft would not fit in my studio and is currently in a heliocentric orbit, so I brought in the hand-built model and overlaid it with solar cell scraps for a look like the genuine spacecraft. Discovering a planet with the transit method is a particularly low-reward science as only about 5% of star systems are in such a favorable alignment so as to have transits. To contend with this, the Kepler Space Telescope stares at an area of the sky in the Cygnus Constellation to avoid the Sun, point out of the ecliptic plane and include a large number of stars in the field of view. I captured this background of the Cygnus constellation by combining more than 8-hrs of exposure time at Humboldt State Park and used my HiMARC algorithms for processing. A bear nearly ate my dog in the process, but it turns out he was more interested in the berries. Red clouds of ionized Hydrogen gas form the emission nebulas, including the North American nebula (flipped for composition) while the Milky Way's dust lanes and stars dominate the frame. On June 5th 2012, among the rarest of predictable astrological events occurred as the planet Venus’ normal orbit brought it to pass between the Earth and the Sun. Kepler relies on such transits to occur light-years away and though unable to view the exoplanet directly, infers its presence by a tiny dip in the amount of light coming from its hosts star. Repeat transits are needed to insure it was not a giant space bug flying in front of the lens (among other things). This year astronomers were lucky to see the transit only eight years after the previous occurrence in 2004, but the world will have to wait until 2117 to see Venus pass before the Sun again. For me and the rest of the HiMARC team, the transit provided a great opportunity to test our Atmospheric Lensing technology using a narrowband (7 nm) etalon interferometer tuned to the hydrogen alpha emission line on a 90mm refractor (this means we were able to filter out most of the light spectrum and only photograph a narrow portion in which hydrogen emits light. This allows you to see the rich textures of hydrogen on the Sun’s surface that would otherwise be obscured.) Solar features including filaments, flares, sunspots and prominences are visible. More than 1 Terabyte of data were recorded to produce this unprecedented high-resolution result! Dr. Natalie Batalha, Co-investigator on the Kepler Mission and Professor of Physics & Astronomy at San Jose State University, unassumingly brings the Vogue element to the piece and poses in the studio as I explain she should be reaching for the next new world with her right hand. As a member of the Kepler team, Dr. Batalha is responsible for the selection of the more than 150,000 stars the spacecraft monitors and works closely with team members at Ames to identify viable planet candidates from Kepler photometry.
Final assembly, color, contrast and brightness adjustments made in Photoshop, nothing else. 48'' x 120'' framed canvas print (available in multiple formats).
Here are some shots from the production: