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Tuesday, April 15

art in space

The gas giant planet orbiting Epsilon Eridani
as seen from one of its frozen moons.
(Artwork by David Aguilar Harvard-Smithsonian CFA)

The above is one of the fabulous "Art Inspired by Space" features in an online gallery at

Also: Portrait of the stars
Space artists play an increasingly important role in imagining distant worlds

CAMBRIDGE - When an exoplanet called 2M1207B was caught in a colossal smash-up earlier this year, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics summoned David A. Aguilar to recreate the scene.

No way scientists could just snap pictures. The surmised collision with another planet was unfurling 173 light-years from Earth - too distant and too tiny, relatively, for the Hubble Space Telescope or other mighty lenses to catch meaningful images.

The astronomers needed a space artist, and fast: Without a "visual," the spectacular finding, detected through complex gauging of luminosity, temperature, and densities, would be hard to explain to nonscientists.

Aguilar, using computer imaging software, rendered a violent portrait of a blue-green planet smashing into a seething yellow gas giant - an imaginary view, to be sure, but one that fit the available facts, right down to the positioning of wheeling galaxies and cosmic clouds in the background. continued

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