Space presented as art: the idea behind the Environmental Station
By Margherita Bruscolini | Geoscientist
There’s some kind of beauty in small things, don’t you think? But there’s so much beauty in big things, as well. We live immerse in our familiar reality of rounded, squared, irregular and perfect features, “imperturbe, standing at ease in nature”, to just cite Walt Whitman. But we can’t clearly, or rather not entirely, feel the coexistence of every possible sizes, the cleanliness harmony between the different grades of the hypothetical Earth proportion’s scale.
As a Geoscientist, I came in contact with disciplines like Mineralogy and Crystallography that are trying to finally understand the complex ecosystem that minerals and crystals are, starting from the nanoscopic to the microscopic to arrive at the macroscopic level of detail. The observation of these chemical compounds, so beautifully made by spatial repetition of atoms in the three dimensions that can create complex symmetrical patterns and surprising shapes, made me see the ubiquity of symmetry in everything that surrounds us. Just think about amazing places such as the Sala de la Barca in the Alhambra, Granada, or the Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano. Places designed specifically to please the eyes of visitors but ultimately inspired by the perfection of Mother Nature.
During my studies and early career, I had the luck to also know more about the seemingly limitless world of Earth Remote Sensing, intimately linked in a deep way to the wider field of Space Science; in fact, it’s a discipline based on the observation of the Earth from the outside, e.g. from space.
Besides the immense beauty that strikes you when looking at the Earth from afar, and asking yourself “Wait, I live in the same planet as the one in that picture?”, is the realisation that these beautiful images are also having a hug impact in environmental monitoring. Of the 50 “essential variables” used for monitoring Climate Change, for example, satellites cover more than a half.
A variety of satellite instruments ranging from Radar systems to measure sea level change to optical instruments that split images into distinctive spectral patterns to tell us about vegetation health, are constantly in use to inform us of the state of our ecosystems. The Copernicus programme, set out by the European Space Agency (ESA), realises the huge potential of satellites and opens the gates for citizens to use the information and insights gathered by them in a revolutionary push towards effective environmental conservation. This video by ESA highlights the enormous value of satellite monitoring of the Earth and how to engage with the Copernicus programme itself.
Since the concept of Asteria Creative Division’s first event is that Space development = Earth development, we decided to embrace the conceptual parallelism between Mineral — Camera — Earth — Satellite, and wanted to express this change in perspective as best as possible. Ultimately, the idea was to reflect on the importance of satellites for environmental monitoring and conservation.
A mineral as the unique and complex ecosystem that it is, best observed and monitored with a camera, and the Earth as the complicated system best surveyed with a satellite from space. To effectively express this strong parallelism we decided to use the video format.
Behind the Environmental station lies a fairly linear process and creative journey, I would say. Starting from the visual inspiration from the National Museum of Scotland collection of astonishing minerals and rocks, to the decision of the places on the Earth that most resembled the mineral/rock’s unique pattern or shape, to the image editing using the ESA’s SNAP software until the satellite image colours and textures matched that of the mineral.
Google Earth was the right place to start our virtual tour around the world.
When we decided on the right locations for our video, we used the Copernicus Open Access Hub, a very intuitive tool that ESA provides for free access to satellite data, to search and download the chosen satellite images.
The final step was then to work on the video itself as our final visual-auditive artwork. It was also time to integrate the perfect soundtrack, made especially to represent the core concept of the overall project.
The end product is a video exploring a variety of minerals and similar Earth counterparts. To see the full work, along with the rest of Asteria Creative Division’s first event, visit our page at asteria-space.com!