New, detailed pictures of planets, moons, and comets are neither photos nor animations - they're made using data from 50 years of NASA missions
D. Finnin/© AMNH
- Visualizing distant planets, moons, and comets in our solar system can be challenging.
- Typically, astronomers use images from NASA missions or artistic renditions to show what space objects look like.
- Now, planetariums like the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium are turning to a new method - data visualization - to depict our solar system.
- This helps viewers see planets and moons in unprecedented detail.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
For many years, there were only two ways for astronomers to see distant worlds in our solar system: Either they used a powerful telescope, or they sent spacecraft into the inky blackness to get up close and personal.
But a third option is emerging to offer unprecedented detail and accuracy: data visualization.
At the American Museum of Natural History, a new planetarium show reveals images of Saturn's moon Titan, the 67P comet, and the lunar surface, all generated using data collected during 50 years of space missions.
"We're not making anything up here," Carter Emmart, director of astrovisualization for that show, said at a press conference. "The height, color, and shapes we see come from actual measurements. You get to see these beautiful objects as they actually are, to the best of our abilities."
Carter and his team relied on data gathered by robotic probes, telescopes, and supercomputer simulations from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and Japan Aerospace Exploration since the 1970s.
"We're taking numbers and turning that into a picture," he told Business Insider. "We've created a 3D world that lives in the computer and can be shown on screen."
Take a look at some of the most impressive visuals from the show,"Worlds Beyond Earth," which opened Tuesday.