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EPIC: This Digital Artist Uses Real World Space Photos to Show What Our Future In Space Looks Like

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It’s not often that I come across something that visually intrigues my creative intellect.

WANDERERS just did that.


Wanderers is a visual masterpiece and short science fiction film created by Erik Wernquist that makes Star Wars visual effects look old – very very old! Using actual real life photos and paintings from sources ranging from NASA/JPL, NASA/CICLOPS, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio, ESA, John Van Vliet, Björn Jonsson (and many others), Wernquist manages to bring to life the”scientific ideas and concepts of what our future in space might look like, if it ever happens”.

The talented digital artist and animator spent hours building digital recreations from photos of actual places located within our Solar System, he also states map data was also used when it was available.

‘The title WANDERERS refer partly to the original meaning of the word “planet”. In ancient greek, the planets visible in the sky were collectively called “aster planetes” which means “wandering star”. It also refers to ourselves; for hundreds of thousands of years – the wanderers of the Earth. In time I hope we take that leap off the ground and permanently become wanderers of the sky. Wanderers among the wanderers.
There is no apparent story – other than what you might imagine for yourself – and the idea is primarily to show a glimpse of the fantastic and beautiful nature that surrounds us on our neighbouring worlds – and above all, how it might appear to us if we were there.’

Erik Wernquist also explains why he used some of the still images that were used in the short film…

WANDERERS_the_open_road_01

“The opening shot is a montage showing a band of nomads walking westward across a valley somewhere in the north Middle East, just after sunset and around 10000 BC. In the emerging night sky, the planets are shining clearly. From the horizon in the lower right to the top left they are as follows: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

I don’t know if the planets have ever been aligned like this in our sky, perfectly according their order of distance from the Sun, probably not but I figured it was a nice way to start the film. The wanderers of the earth under the wanderers of the sky.”

WANDERERS_leaving_home_01

“Sometime in the future, a large spacecraft is taking off from Earths orbit, filled with passengers on a long journey to somewhere else in the Solar System. This may be the first large colony to permanently settle another world.

The background is a classic photo of the Earth from space, with the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean, taken from the International Space Station on July 21, 2003. I mapped the photo on a curved plane and replaced the optical flare from the sun with a digital flare to be able to create some motion. The original photo can be seen here.

The spacecraft is a digital 3D model, obviously.”

WANDERERS_ringshine_03
“This is one of the most awesome views I can imagine experiencing in the Solar System; floating in a light breeze above Saturn’s cloud tops at night, looking up at the glorious swaths of the Rings in the sky, and witness how they wash the cloudscape with the light they reflect from the Sun. The ringshine.

Saturn is a huge ball of gas with no surface to stand on (apart from a small rocky core that may hide in its very center), so any human visit there would have to be suspended in balloons or dirigibles, like seen here. The atmospheric pressure at the upper layers of clouds ranges between 0,5 and 2 times the pressure at sea level on Earth, so in theory you could “hang around” under the open sky there without the need of pressurized a space suit. You would, however, need to bring along oxygen to breathe and it would be very cold – temperatures at this altitude range between -170 and -110 C.

So, I have taken some liberties with realism here but I wanted to show a person without a space suit for this final shot, and just hope the future might bring along some incredibly insulating material to make it possible to take a stroll on a balcony beneath the sky of Saturn wearing just a jacket and a face mask.
The winds on Saturn also blow pretty hard. The highest speeds are around the equator, where they can reach 500 meters per second, and slow down towards the poles. However, when suspended in a balloon or dirigible like here, you would be floating along with the wind, hardly feeling anything more than a light breeze.

There is obviously no photographic reference for a shot like this and I have used my imagination to guess what a spectacle like this would look like. I did have a lot of inspiration from Björn Jonsson’s renderings of what Saturn’s skies may look like. More of Björns space renderings can be seen here. For the shape of the Rings I used a texture created by John Van Vliet for the virtual space simulator Celestia and for the clouds I used a wide range of photos I found online to create this 3-dimensional composite. Unfortunately I don’t know the names of the photographers for these images.”

If you would like to learn more about this visually fascinating story then head over the the Wanderers website.