CHICAGO (CBS) — If you’ve ever seen an image of another world or a galaxy far, far away from NASA, it likely came from two artists in California.
NASA visualization scientist Robert Hurt and multimedia producer Tim Pyle are working to bring the universe to life, developing renderings of what newly discovered planets look like.
Hurt is an astrophysicist turned artist. Pyle, once a Hollywood animator, is now a planet illustrator.
Together, they produce some of NASA’s most popular images; from renderings of how planets light years away might look to actual photos of stars and galaxies captured by NASA’s powerful telescopes.
“What we’re doing does have real science underlying it,” Hurt said.
Many of those images have a dark and grainy start, but color and light reveal an astonishing glimpse of how the deepest regions of space might appear to the human eye.
“What I’m trying to do is show people sort of the broader colors that the universe has to offer,” Hurt said.
It’s a delicate blend of imagination and data. The artists meet with NASA scientists over many drafts to ensure a planet’s or galaxy’s look lines up with scientific research, to make each image as accurate as possible.
“I love the challenge. It’s kind of like a puzzle to me, of trying to create something that’s really cool within the restrictions that we’re given by the scientists,” Pyle said.
Hurt and Pyle said they have to be especially careful when it comes to illustrations of other planets, to avoid colors many of us would associate with Earth properties, such as blue for water.
It can take days, even weeks, to produce a single image. The dazzling final results are enough to keep us all dreaming of the final frontier for years to come.