At the Pasadena Museum of California Art, art lovers can gain a sense of what it might be like searching on the surface of Jupiter — by using a cellphone. The installation was created by Jet Propulsion Laboratory and its visual strategist, Dan Goods, and it tries to bring the Juno spacecraft and its mission to Jupiter to life.
The PMCA's Project Room is covered in a vast layer of fog, beneath which infrared light — invisible to the naked eye — will create forms that can be seen only with the assistance of a screen, such as on a cellphone camera after you've taken a picture. Just as the Juno mission is peering beneath the top clouds of Jupiter to understand its internal structure, the museum says, visitors will be able to “see” another world of light beneath the surface.
Inside the room, I found myself wondering if the clapping of thunder and the sound of running water also were aspects that Juno might be hearing on Jupiter. Goods says Jupiter has giant storms, and he wanted viewers to experience them with light and sound. On the other hand, the trinkling water is just part of the six ultrasonic misters filling the space with fog.
After my eyes and ears have adjusted to the dark and stormy environment, Goods reminds me to take a look at the chemical equations and numbers that are sporadically projected onto the images of clouds.
Goods has been hooked on working with scientists ever since he did a summer internship at Caltech while he was attending Art Center nearby. “They work on big ideas, and I love big ideas,” he says.
His job at JPL allows him to work with creative people who are pushing the limits of human knowledge — something most artists don't get to do on a daily basis.
As part of his other projects, Goods has imagined the galaxy in a grain of sand. Six rooms of sandboxes represented all the galaxies in the universe, while he asked JPL engineers to drill a tiny hole in the special grain of sand that represents our home, sweet home. “All the planets found outside our solar system could fit within this area of our galaxy,” Goods says.
The ability to think outside the sandbox makes visualizing scientific pursuits much more fun.
The Juno spacecraft launched on Aug. 5, 2011, and will arrive at Jupiter five years later. The installation is up until Jan. 8, 2012.