You don’t usually mention Vincent Van Gogh (you know, the Dutch painter who famously cut off his own ear) and the Hubble Space Telescope (you know, that one giant space telescope) in the same breath. But the disparate worlds of science and art ran headlong into each other recently when an astronomy student recreated Van Gogh’s Starry Night using images from the HST.
A PhD student at Harvard named Alex Parker collected Hubble’s top 100 photos and used the images to remake the iconic 1889 painting. Using a mosaic-making program he pieced the pictures together into a representation of Van Gogh’s swirling, blue-hued brush strokes. The result is a stunning collage of stars, planets, and galaxies viewed from deep space, rearranged look like one man’s artistic representation of the night sky.
Though he’d had the idea for some time—Parker first came up with the concept around the time of Hubble’s 22nd birthday—the project finally came about when cloudy skies and inclement weather prevented him from being able to look at the real thing at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“Observing can be all over the map,” Parker said. “You will be shut out by clouds on some nights, have to evacuate the mountain because of high winds and ice on other nights, and other times there isn’t a moment to pause because you’re taking data at such a high rate all night.”
Parker’s specialty deals with nearby proto-planets and asteroids, with an aim on expanding our knowledge of how our solar system ultimately came to be.