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Planetary Science Art Show Features Works by PSI Scientist Artists

Jamie Molaro's planetary science art

Jamie Molaro’s “LAR 04315” received first place in the show’s Data Art category. Credit: Jamie Molaro.


PSI scientists have been honored at this week’s University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory’s Art of Planetary Science 2021: Space Travel, an exhibition of art celebrating the beauty and elegance of science that runs Sept. 24-26 at the UA and online. 

PSI Research Scientist Jamie Molaro’s piece “LAR 04315” received the first place award in the Data Art category, and third place in Data Art went to PSI Founder and Senior Scientist Emeritus Bill Hartmann and space artist Lonny Buinis for “VR Mars – Hartmann channels Lowell.” 

"This work is based on an image of meteorite LAR 04315 found by the U.S. Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program. We study meteorites by shining polarized light through a thin slice under a microscope, causing the minerals to light up in different colors. Layers of colored paper were cut such that the grains show through when stacked together. The Antarctic continent outlines the top." Molaro said. 

“This piece was challenging to make due to the image processes required. First, I had to trace each grain in the image to make a smoother picture using only a discrete set up colors. Figuring out how to layer these colors in order to cut properly took several hours. It’s really hard to wrap your brain around because when cutting, you cut the grain shapes out of the paper such that it’s the color beneath that actually shows through,” Molaro said. “This means each layer merging the shapes being cut, while simultaneously avoiding creating islands, which would require you to glue loose pieces of grains together. On the upside, since the shapes were simple the cutting part of the process went pretty quickly.” 

“VR Mars – Hartmann channels Lowell,” is based on an 2001 painting by Hartmann, which was based on Percival Lowell's Martian maps, where Hartmann portrayed Mars as it might have looked if Lowell had been correct about "canals on Mars." Buinis, a space artist and animator specializing in astronomical subjects, projected Hartmann's artwork onto a sphere and saved it as a virtual reality object in a format that allows anyone to turn it in 3D and zoom using a web browser. 

The Art of Planetary Science exhibition features works of art from Tucson and around the world inspired by the Solar System, the universe, and the scientific data we use to explore it. The galleries open Friday, Sept. 24. In-person art will be displayed at the Kuiper Space Sciences building, 1629 E. University Blvd., Tucson, Arizona, 85719, Friday Sept. 24 from 6-9p.m., Saturday Sept. 25 from 11a.m.-7p.m., and Sunday Sept. 26 from noon-6p.m. 

Virtual art will be displayed in three galleries: Data Art, Fine Art and Space Travel. Virtual art will remain displayed online until October 31, 2021. 

To RSVP for the opening weekend virtual streaming events please visit 

Per UA rules, masks will be required indoors. Everyone is encouraged to bring a mask, and disposable masks will be available for those without, along with a few hand sanitizing stations.

Sept. 19, 2021
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