The full image of the painting can be seen if you scroll down in this post.
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This painting started out as being a project solely about the LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) but became more. It became a piece about who we are and how tiny and insignificant we are despite our grandiose notions as humans.
There are so many wars raging and terrorists attacking and people fighting and killing one another in our streets that I thought a simple painting full of mostly darkness could shed some light on the political and social landscape we currently exist in.
This painting is based on a photo that the LRO took with its camera. The LRO spends most of its time focused on the surface of the moon but every so often it calibrates or turns in such a way that it captures a glimpse of our planet rising in the distance. The moon is the closest thing in the universe to us, yet look how small we seem from it’s vantage point. Much like Carl Sagan’s story of the pale blue dot, the LRO and this painting tell a similar story of how extremely small, fragile and almost insignificant we are.
I hope that some of us can use this painting to recalibrate ourselves and to stop focusing within and down and look up and outward and gain some perspective.
Huge thanks to Dr. Pamela Gay, who helped teach me about the craters*- that I did not highlight in this piece but may later as time allows. Pamela is an endless source of wisdom about the universe and our solar system and I love her.
Another big thank you to Dawn Myers who is a Systems Engineer for NASA. I met her at Geek Girl Con where she was teaching kids about asteroids in the Science Zone. She was the inspiration for this piece. You might say she was my muse. 🙂 She helped me so much with inspiration and I hope to do more art in the future with what she taught me. Here is a bit of the info she, along with Andrea Jones, the education lead at LRO and their colleague Noah shared with me about the project:
Right now there is a spacecraft orbiting the Moon that is revolutionizing our understanding of Earth’s nearest neighbor. We used to think that the Moon was a (geologically) dead, completely dry place – no more. This spacecraft, called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, has a number of different instruments that are collecting different types of information about the Moon, including a camera that has high enough resolution that it can see the tracks and equipment the Apollo astronauts and rovers left behind. This camera could see you, if you lay down on the Moon!
The coldest measured place in the Solar System is found on the Moon! (It’s on the floor of Hermite Crater: ~25K / -248°C / -415°F. By comparison, the Pluto has been measured at -234°C / -390°F.)
We know the shape of the Moon’s surface better than we know the shape of any other moon or planet in the Solar System–including the Earth. [This is because most of the Earth is covered with oceans, and we do not know the shape of the sea floor as well as we know the shape of the land.]
There is water on the Moon! The Moon is still drier than the driest desert on Earth, but there is water on the Moon, and not only – or always – in the places we expected to find it (like in impact craters at the poles of the Moon that haven’t seen sunlight in millions or billions of years).
The Moon is still changing. A constant rain of rocks and other material from space is falling on the Moon, forming new impact craters. Images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter show evidence of (geologically) recent volcanism and faulting, showing the Moon has been geologically active in the past few million years – and may still be active today. This is a huge change in our knowledge, considering we once thought the Moon was geologically dead billions of years ago.
What we are learning about the Moon is helping us better understand the Earth and other planets in our Solar System.
Noah also has highlights he likes to share. Here’s his list of 6 Cool Things About LRO from a recent presentation:
1. LRO is, as of now, the only lunar spacecraft in orbit at the Moon capable of identifying safe landing sites for future explorers
2. The long baseline of LRO observations (5 years) allows for areas of change (new craters, volatile movement) to be identified
3. The LRO spacecraft has operated with ~98% uptime since arriving at the Moon
4. LRO data helps put the Apollo samples into a better context, improving our understanding of those precious rocks
5. Geologic activity was once thought to have stopped ~ 1 billion years ago, images from LRO suggest that it could have happened in the last 100’s of millions of years!
6. LRO has showed us that there’s a lot left to learn about the Moon!
For more information about LRO and LRO science discoveries, with images and links for more information/high resolution versions of images, you can check out a presentation I prepared for the International Observe the Moon Night website. It’s posted on the InOMN Event Materials page (http://observethemoonnight.org/Event-Materials) under “During Your Event” in the “Presentations” section. It’s called “LRO Science Results and Ways to Get Involved in NASA Lunar Science.”
Click to embiggen!
Thank you so much Pamela, Dawn, Andrea and Noah! I hope to do more art with what I learned and I hope this painting that was inspired by this photo taken by the LRO will bring those who see it a moment of pause and of contemplation about who we are, where we are, and what we are doing on this tiny blue dot.
*Please note that the craters in this painting were all just approximated and are not at all intended to be representations of the actual moon’s surface.
One last thing, my pledges have dropped below my goal for doing time-lapse videos of drawings and paintings for the past month- which is why you didn’t see any posted in November. I miss them, If you have any friends that you could get to pledge to my account it would be a great Holiday gift for me. I only need about $40 to get back over the pledge amount. This Patreon means the world to me but I can’t dedicate my time to it if it doesn’t help me pay the cost of living. If you know anyone who might pledge it could be my little holiday “miracle”. Thanks.