A series of stunning posters that imagine vacations to distant planets and moons was released this year by NASA in an effort to bring real scientific discoveries to vibrant life.
The posters, which can be downloaded for free in high resolution here, have a vintage feel but depict the reality on each of the worlds. Artists worked closely with NASA scientists to understand the wide variety of conditions from planets with no stars to the ice moon of Europa.
“There are all these worlds out there, and they seem like science fiction, but they are real, and they have very different characteristics,” said David Delgado, a visual strategist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We wanted to bring an element of plausibility in what it would be like to be there.”
The wonders of space can be difficult for people to grasp, because it sometimes comes across as just data, said Joby Harris, also a visual strategist with NASA.
“Our universe has gotten so much bigger, but people aren’t talking about it,” Harris said. “The power of imagery with science really makes the connection with people.”
For example, the planet PSO J318.5-22 was discovered in October 2013 and is unusual in that it belongs to a special class of planets that don’t orbit a parent star.
PSO J318.5-22 may have remained forever anonymous if not for the dramatic poster that highlights what happens on a planet “wandering alone in the galaxy.”
The posters have become so popular with the public that people are calling asking to buy prints, but NASA is only offering them for free online for now.
Delgado said he was surprised at how popular they have become but said he can understand because not only are they beautiful but they also represent human ambition and are just fun.
“We’re trying to communicate the science but the reality is these places exist. They are real,” Delgado said. “We’re trying to create something that will get people to ask questions.”
Harris said his favorite poster is that of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Described as “frigid and alien,” it was similar to Earth billions of years ago.
Some of the planet names may seem strange, such as Kepler-16b, but they are named after missions or the spacecraft that discovered them.
Kepler-16b, described as being similar to Luke Skywalker’s planet Tatooine, was discovered by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft.
The visual artists also included Earth in their poster series. Delgado said it is an idealized version of the planet where all of the problems with pollution and global warming have been solved.
In the perfect future, Earth is “your oasis in space.”
“It is very idealized, but that’s where we hope to be one day,” Delgado said.
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