NASA/NSTA Space Science Student Involvement Program Intergalactic Art Award and Trip to Washington, DC

by Karen Shakespear

I actually decided on the medium (spray paint) for my picture before I decided on the actual image, My sister and I had been doing other school projects with spray paint for awhile, so we had many different colors and varieties. Saturn has always been my favorite planet, so I decided to include rings. After experimenting with spray paint, I figured out how to make it spray out in dots for stars and galaxies or clouds for nebulae. I added the moons so that there would be more color, The middle one was actually a mistake- I painted on the wrong side of the poster board and it bubbled up. Fortunately, it looked like mountains.

For the written part of my project, I wrote about what I was interested in and how those topics related to my picture. Orbital physics, or the way planets and moons orbit around each other, was pretty easy to relate. My personal favorite, fractals and chaos, was also demonstrated in my picture. The rings are not exactly like Saturn's, but they are made up of basically the same material and follow the same principles.

The trip to D.C. was wonderful. My favorite part was meeting the other students who had won in different competitions. They were all very friendly and interesting to talk to. The best part, though, was realizing that there are other people who do projects like this not for the extra credit, but because they love learning and designing and sharing. And it was really great to feel like I could say exactly what I was thinking, and not only would everyone understand, but they would have thought one step beyond. Ms, Sheek (the teacher that went with me) and I went to a lot of museums, My presentation went okay, and it was very interesting hearing the other students present. Before we left, we all traded e-mail addresses so we could keep in touch.

My illustration is of a large gas planet with a ring similar to Saturn's and three visible moons. I chose this image because it is what I think of when I think of space. The colors are not entirely realistic, but I think they convey a sense of wonder and mystique. The stars and galactic dust in the background give a feeling of distance and time that is a major part of anything to do with space.

One scientific concept utilized in my artwork is the theory of orbiting bodies. The three moons as well as the ring are orbiting the planet. They are actually revolving around a common center of gravity, but because the planet is so much more massive than the moons, only the moons appear to move. The centrifugal force produced by the motion of the bodies keeps them from falling toward each other. Another concept illustrated in my picture is the reflection of light. The middle-sized moon has many mountains that make it appear to be dappled when the light shines on it in a particular way because one side of each mountain is light and the other dark- The swirling gasses of the planet illustrate one aspect of chaos. The he patterns formed are practically unpredictable because of the dynamic, interaction between the forces that create them, such as heat, pressure, and winds. One method of understanding this is through fractal geometry, which is based on similar patterns repeating at different scales. Overall, the planet has swirls of orange and yellow. At a greater magnification, there would be smaller swirls, and so on. The ring around the planet also represents a scientific concept. Saturn's rings contain particles ranging in size from dust to boulders. Density fluctuations in the rings are thought to result from a complex interplay of the gravitational forces of Saturn and its many satellites. These are some of the concepts that I am interested in and that I wanted to convey in my artwork.

Briggs, John. The Pattern's of New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.

Gehrels Tom. "Saturn, 94 ed. CD-ROM.

Maran, Stephen P. "Planets Around Other Stars are Hot, Hot, Hot-" Smithsonian Sept. 1997: 72-80.