The animated art of space

Contributed by
Apr 5, 2011
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Not surprisingly, I watch a lot of TV shows about astronomy. Some are good, some, um, not so much. Probably my biggest beef with them is that the visual art is inaccurate or used badly. I've seen countless shows where the graphics are simply wrong, misleadingly showing some astronomical event incorrectly. Sometimes that's no big deal, but sometimes it gives a false sense of what's going on.

But some shows have fantastic imagery: beautiful, accurate, and in incredible detail. Such as, for example, The BBC's "Wonders of the Universe", a terrific show hosted by physicist and dreamy science popularizer Brian Cox*. The effects from the show were done by Burrell Durrant Hifle, who has posted a video featuring 15 or so minutes of these amazing shots [make sure you set it to HD and make it full screen, too]:


I particularly like the pulsar about 9 minutes in, and the incredibly dramatic supernova sequence right after. Some of these events are depicted exactly like I picture them in my head, and do a great job of showing you what the Universe is like.

I could quibble about some of the objects shown in the animations -- planetary nebulae, for example, would look very different up close than they do through a telescope -- but these worries are very small compared to the impact of the overall video and I don't think detract from the real science. Chalk 'em up to artistic license.

My only real complaint is that the animations aren't titled. I'm pretty sure I know what's what -- it's kinda my thing -- but titles would help the casual viewer understand what they're seeing here. And I expect this video will get a lot of viewers!

You can find more videos by BDH online, too. They really are quite lovely.

Tip o' the 3D glasses to Doug Troy.

* I've known Brian for a few years now, so I have first-hand knowledge of his dreaminess.