Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2003 May 29
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Frizion Illume
Credit & Copyright: Peter Wasilewski (Goddard Space Flight Center)

Explanation: Scientific images of cosmic dust clouds or even frozen water can be esthetic too. In fact, this picture of thin layers of forming ice crystals uses a scientific understanding of light's wave properties solely for artistic purposes. Titled "Illume", the picture was created by astrophysicist Peter Wasilewski. To make the picture, the crystals were illuminated by light shining through a polarizing filter -- a filter that restricts the otherwise randomly oriented light waves to vibrate in only one direction. While passing through the ice, different colors of the polarized light are then refracted and reflected along slightly different paths by the delicate crystalline layers. Viewing the scene with a second polarizing filter brings out the wondrous display of structure and color. Painting with "light, the laws of physics, and an attitude" Wasilewski has created a series of these evocative ice images that he refers to as Frozen Vision or Frizion.

Tomorrow's picture: eclipse on top

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