Monday, March 26, 2012

What Was the Best Question you Asked Today?

Growing up, my parents never asked me the classic dinner-table question "What did you learn today?" Instead, they would ask, "What was the best question you asked today?" A very simple modification, but one that requires a focus on how you interact with the material, not just what material is presented. I have lived my life appreciating that questions are more important than answers. Sometimes, however, the answers are beautiful.

This video was made to answer my question: "What do the stars look like from space?" The result, I hope inspires people to imagine what it must be like to watch the stars from the best place in the solar system from which humans can star watch: the International Space Station.

As a society, we need to cultivate question asking and curiosity in kids and provide inspirational material for their imagination. With the composition of these images, I hope to frame space exploration in a way that not only motivates kids to ask questions about what lies beyond low earth orbit, but also acts as a remember to pay attention to the raw beauty of nature.

Since the release of this video, it has been viewed over 750,000 times in over 150 countries. (The countries shaded blue on the map below show the extent of the interest in this video).

There has been wide-spread international news coverage (see links below), and this video will be displayed in New York's Time Square on large news-stand screens (CEMUSA Digital Video network) with an estimated 1.5 million people a day being exposed to these images (see stand below).

Additionally, this work was selected to be shown at the 16x9 foot Biowall ( in Maryland and is currently being shown at the Telus Spark Science Center in Calgary, Alberta as part of their "Earth and Sky" exhibit. (See picture below)

While I have been amazed to see this response to the sequence of images I put together, I think the world-wide popularity reflects how we all are inspired by what these astronaut explorers are doing, and where they are. We know these images were taken by a human being, and thus in watching these images we know that WE could be there and we can imagine what the photographer must feel like to sit in the Cupola and watch the earth go by, the stars, the aurora.....

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Make your own video!

NASA makes these images available for public use via The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. The Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center. This is one of NASA's best public outreach programs, in my opinion.

Crew Earth Observations Videos

A very big thanks to NASA astronaut/explorer Don Pettit (@astro_Pettit) for taking most of these images. He is one of those explorers who understands how important it is to share the awesomeness he is surrounded by. Not only in these images, but also in the "Science off the Sphere" blog.

The material NASA makes available are still images in sequence, so I downloaded each image from the site mentioned above. Each image was edited using Adobe Lightroom with some cropping to make the stars the focal point of each shot, with manipulation of the contrast to bring out the stars a bit more. I then imported all of the images into iMovie 6, exported as a full quality movie, re-imported and edited to the music.

Music: "Truck out There" by London PM. This song was chosen because for me, this track makes you think you are taking a mellow stroll among the stars. Any good journey requires a great soundtrack. London PM makes great music.

Buy the Track here: iTunes
His website is here:

First sequence of star-trails processed using StarStax.
It is a free program created by Markus Enzweiler which allows the processing of time-lapse sequences into star-trails. The first sequence uses the same footage as can be seen between 1:15 and 1:25 on the video, so you can get an idea of the kind of effect that can be created with this software. It is a fantastic program, and if you end up using it, throw a donation his way because he deserves it. I also used his program with some of my star time-lapses, so you can get an idea of what you can do with your own footage.

"In Their Light: Star Trails from Five Continents"

If anyone has questions about any of the steps I used, I am happy to help teach you.