Using Real Pluto Imagery – From Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA

In producing From Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA we made the exciting but perilous decision to include the New Horizons mission within our story. So we made an early bet that the mission would be a success…

As you well know, New Horizons has given us an amazing close-up look at Pluto. And so we are excited to announce that we have updated the show to include the latest real images of Pluto and Charon!

DJ Spooky: The Hidden Code – Performing in the Dome

My love for live music in the dome is undeniable. The idea is simple but powerful: Allow the synthesis of live performance and astronomy visuals to create a uniquely awe-inspiring experience.

Having thrown a series of live music events, each with its own custom dome visuals, we now have a collection of 4k dome material. So when DJ Spooky approached us with the idea of partnering to create a live fulldome show, it felt like a natural match. And the premiere of the show is just a few weeks away.

DJ Spooky: The Hidden Code — tickets
Performing at the Charles Hayden Planetarium, Museum of Science
Thursday, September 24, 2015 — 7:00–9:00 pm


Now Booking Dome Performances

After the premiere of the album and fulldome show is when things get interesting for you. DJ Spooky is looking for domes to perform in! For live bookings please contact Sozo.

We have also created a canned version of the show which is meant to compete with evening laser shows. If you’re interested in licensing the show, then please contact me.

4k Fulldome Show Optionsfulldome trailer
— Live performance (visuals split by song)
— Canned show (45 minute show)

Flat Theater Options [16:9 ratio]flat trailer
— Live performance (visuals split by song)
— Canned show (45 minute show)

More Info About The Hidden Code Album

Imagine a visual odyssey through the cosmos, driven by lush musical compositions and inspired by complex themes of astronomy, engineering, biology, and psychology. The Hidden Code is the newest work by Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky. Commissioned by Dartmouth College’s Neukom Institute for Computational Science, Miller composed the album based on conversations with several of Dartmouth’s leading researchers.

The album features Dartmouth theoretical physicist and saxophonist Stephon Alexander; and Dartmouth physicist and author Marcelo Gleiser who reads his original poetry.

Check out the free online streaming of The Hidden Code album.

Savor this synthesis of emerging science, poetry, and melody with immersive visions overhead as The Hidden Code pushes art into science. Science into music. Music into art.

Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky, is a composer, music producer, performer, multimedia artist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer. He has collaborated with an array of recording artists, from Metallica and Chuck D to Steve Reich and Yoko Ono. He is the author of Imaginary App, Rhythm Science, Sound Unbound and Book of Ice.

Stephon Alexander is a theoretical physicist, tenor saxophonist and recording artist. He specializes in cosmology, particle physics and quantum gravity. He is the Ernest Everett Just 1907 Professor of Natural Sciences at Dartmouth and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

Marcelo Gleiser is a theoretical physicist specializing in particle cosmology. He is the author of The Island of Knowledge, A Tear at the Edge of Creation, The Prophet and the Astronomer, and The Dancing Universe. He is the founder of NPR’s blog 13.7 on science and culture. He is the Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy and Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth.



NPR – The Hidden Code: An Embrace Of Art And Science
Sound of Boston – Interview
Dartmouth – DJ Spooky Album Explores Universe With Dartmouth Scientists

From Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA – Watch the Trailer

Experience the challenges of the next generation of space exploration in this brand-new Planetarium show. By using exciting real-life projects like NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and the New Horizons mission to Pluto, the show highlights the extreme nature of spacecraft engineering and the life cycle of a space mission – from design and construction to the rigors of testing, launch, and operations. Blast off and take the voyage with us!


It has been a intense few months. Here are a few things we’ve accomplished:

  • Presented a planetarium workshop and teacher workshop.
  • Traveled to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to shoot 360 video.
  • Had NASA engineer check-in’s to approve the science.
  • Created extra educational modules that dive deeper into select topics.
  • Fulfilled the formative/summative NASA review.
  • And this week we opened the show to the public!

We’ve finished the concentric version of the show and we’re now working on a unidirectional version which will be finalized for distribution in February 2015.

NASA Show – Sneak Peek

The blog has been quiet recently because we’ve been knee deep in a show production. So here is a quick look at whats been cookin’.

We received a NASA grant to create a planetarium show about spacecraft engineering and the challenges of designing, testing, and launching! Also we wanted to feature real imagery, so we traveled to NASA Goddard and shot 360° video at their expansive test facilities.

From Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA
Available for distribution in early 2015

Glimpse Behind the Scenes

Below are some in-progress scenes from the actual fulldome show. We are currently in the polishing stage and we’re working to add the final details. I can’t wait to share more…

Waiting Far Away – Fulldome Short

An explorer of the cosmos has traveled too far… And can’t find home.
Follow in the footsteps of a cosmic traveler as he shares a wild story. Find out what grand mysteries he has uncovered while journeying deep into intergalactic space, searching…

In the creative process of producing planetarium shows, we often come across imagery that is stunning but doesn’t work in the context of a science show. And so our collection of fulldome astronomy art animations has matured into a hybrid form of storytelling where we mix imagination with real data.

What particularly excites us about backburner short projects, is that we produce them quickly. It’s refreshing to just have a clear vision and then immediately crank it out. In the future we plan to continue creating fulldome shorts. Our next short will have a bleeding edge science topic to focus on. But we have other ideas for experiences in outer space that don’t fit your typical science show. More to come!

Domemasters Freely Available

  • Available for planetarium use. Please contact me to obtain a download link.
  • 4k domemaster frames, 30fps, 5.1 surround & stereo audio
  • 2k MOV or MP4
  • 1k MOV or MP4

Terms: permission to freely screen to the public in planetariums as you see fit. You must screen the short in full and unedited. Not to be used in other shows without permission.


Wish to translate and record the narration into a language that better suits your audience? Let me know and I can share the music-only mix with you.

Languages Available
— Czech
— English
— Farsi
— French
— German
— Korean
— Portuguese
— Russian
— Spanish (Castilian)
— Telugu

Translations In Progress
— Afrikaans
— Arabic
— Armenian
— Chinese
— Dutch
— Greek
— Gujarati
— Hawaiian
— Hebrew
— Hindi
— Hungarian
— Italian
— Japanese
— Nepali
— Polish
— Romanian
— Slovak
— Spanish (Latin American)
— Turkish
— Uzbek


Conferences & Festivals
— Melbourne International Film Festival 2016 (Melbourne, Australia)
— Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival 2016 (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
— SIGGRAPH 2015: VR Village Dome (Los Angeles, CA)
— Geneva International Film Festival / Festival Tous Écrans 2015 (Geneva, Switzerland)
— Jena Fulldome Festival 2014 (Jena, Germany)
— European Symposium of Planetariums 2014 (Lucerne, Switzerland)
— Further Fest 2017 (Nashville, TN)
— Bauhaus Exhibition 2017, Bauhaus University Weimar (Weimar, Germany)
— HUBweek 2017, Swissnex Dome (Boston, MA)

International Planetariums
— Macao Science Center Planetarium (Macao, China)
— Planetarium Wolfsburg (Wolfsburg, Germany)
— Sri Sathya Sai Space Theatre (Puttaparthi, India)
— Baikonur Planetarium (Poland)
— Il Planetario (Bologna, Italy)
— Orbit Night Sky Planetarium (Kolkata, India)
— Roi-Et Planetarium, Science and Cultural Center for Education (Phitsanulok, Thailand)
— Dome Club (Birmingham, UK)
— Planetarium Toruń (Torun, Poland)
— Astropokaz Planetarium (Poland)
— Fireball Planetarium (Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada)
— Planetario Digital Carl Sagan (Parana, Argentina)
— Tusi-Bohm Planetarium (Baku, Azerbaijan)
— Quasar Planetarium (Olkusz, Poland)
— Planetarium and Observatory of Cà del Monte (Cecima, Italy)
— Grupo Astronomico Silos (Zaragoza, Spain)
— The Heavens of Copernicus Planetarium, Copernicus Science Centre (Warsaw, Poland)
— Portable Planetarium (India)
— Portable Planetarium (France)
— Cosmos Planetarium (Scotland)
— Planetarium RCRE (Opole, Poland)
— Museum of Paleontology Egidio Feruglio, Portable Planetarium (Trelew, Argentina)
— Planetario de Bogotá (Bogotá, Colombia)
— Eugenides Planetarium (Athens, Greece)
— Portable Planetarium (Natal, Brazil)
— Portable Planetarium (Brazil)
— Portable Planetarium (Bolivia, South America)
— Sternwarte und Planetarium der Stadt Radebeul (Radebeul, Germany)
— Portable Planetarium (India)
— Portable Planetarium (Brazil)
— Portable Planetarium (Sussex, England)
— Portable Planetarium (Russia)
— Planetarium de Bretagne (Pleumeur-Bodou, France)
— Illusion Planetarium (Tyumen, Russia)
— Strasbourg Planetarium, Université de Strasbourg (Strasbourg, France)
— Astronomy Club of Feira de Santana, Antares Observatory (Bahia, Brazil)
— Portable Planetarium (Poland, Katowice)
— Planetarium of Nantes (Nantes, France)
— Planetarium Hamburg (Hamburg, Germany)
— Portable Planetarium (Matera, Italy)
— Immersive Vision Theatre, Plymouth University (Plymouth, UK)
— Portable Planetarium (Valencia, Spain)
— Digital Mobile Planetarium Wenu Mapu (Rio Negro, Argentina)
— Planetarium Sultan Iskandar (Sarawak, Malaysia)
— ESO Supernova planetarium (Garching, Germany)
— Planetarium Minikosmos (Lichtenstein, Germany)
— Planetarium Man (Northampton, UK)
— Guru Graha Planetarium (Andhra Pradesh, India)
— Zeiss-Planetarium Jena (Jena, Germany)
— Techmania Science Center, Planetarium (Pilsen, Czech Republic)
— Planetarium Photon (Nizhny Tagil, Russia)
— Hvězdárna a Planetárium Brno (Brno, Czech Republic)
— Metaspace Planetarium (Seoul, Korea)
— Portable Planetarium (Cape Town, South Africa)
— Astronomisches Rechen-Institut, Portable Planetarium (Heidelberg, Germany)
— Portable Planetarium (Vic-la-Gardiole, France)
— Planetarium of Occhiobello (Santa Maria Maddalena, Italy)
— Portable Planetarium (Saskatoon, Canada)
— Planetarium Espacio 0.42 (Huesca, Spain)
— Banff National Park, Portable Planetarium (Banff, Canada)
— Portable Planetarium (Vietnam)
— Herne Observatory (Herne, Germany)
— Planetario da UFSC, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (Florianópolis, Brazil)
— DomeEKB Portable Planetarium (Ekaterinburg, Russia)
— Universo Ludico (Bogota, Colombia)
— GEMS American Academy, Planetarium (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
— ARK Dome (Geneva, Switzerland)
— Portable Planetarium (Pretoria, South Africa)
— Portable Planetarium (Krasnoyarsk, Siberia)
— Portable Planetarium (Karnataka, India)
— Portable Planetarium (Mexico)
— Portable Planetarium (Moscow, Russia)
— Portable Planetarium (Guatemala City, Guatemala)
— Portable Planetarium (Kenya, Africa)
— Anápolis Planetarium (Anápolis, Brazil)
— Stuttgart Planetarium (Stuttgart, Germany)
— Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Planetarium (Mashhad, Iran)
— The Adelaide Planetarium, University of South Australia (Adelaide, South Australia)
— StratoSphere Domes (Eastbourne, England)
— Cosmodrome (Gank, Belgium)
— EGPlanetarium (Italy)
— Ufa Planetarium (Ufa, Russia)
— Valentina Tereshkova Planetarium (Yaroslavl, Russia)
— Portable Planetarium (Novosibirsk, Russia)
— Mobilní Planetárium (Prague, Czech Republic)
— Zeiss Planetarium Drebach (Drebach, Germany)
— Portable Planetarium (Zhoushan, China)
— Scitech Planetarium, Scitech Discovery Centre (West Perth, Australia)
— Esfera Espacial Planetarium (Chiapas, Mexico)
— Portable Planetarium (Marbela, Spain)
— Nicolaus Copernicus Planetarium (Nürnberg, Germany)
— Gwacheon National Science Museum (Gwacheon, South Korea)
— Utazó Planetárium (Budapest, Hungary)
— Edudomo Planetarium (Veracruz, Mexico)
— Il Planetario di Nemesis (Italy)
— Planetarium Mobilne Grawiton (Warsaw, Poland)
— Interactive Science Museum, Newton Park (Krasnoyarsk, Russia)
— Zhejiang Science and Technology Museum, Planetarium (Hangzhou, China)
— Portable Planetarium (Czech Republic)
— Kiev Planetarium (Kiev, Ukraine)
— Wellington Museum (Wellington, New Zealand)
— NEST Dome (Québec, Canada)
— Interactive Museum of Xalapa, Planetarium (Veracruz, Mexico)
— SAO64 Dome (Hendaye, France)
— Immersive-Me Dome (London, UK)
— Orion Education Planetarium (Bangalore, India)
— The Soluis Group, Upright Portable Dome (London, UK)
— Planetario de Lima (Chorrillos, Peru)
— EyeDome Cinema (Yerevan, Armenia)
— İstek Vakfı Belde Okulları, Planetarium (Istanbul, Turkey)
— Portable Planetarium (Nellore, India)
— Astronomical Society of Mexico (Baja California, Mexico)
— Skyward Planetarium (Tamil Nadu, India)
— Planetário Digital Mauro de Souza Lima (Garanhuns, Brazil)
— Çağ University, Space Observation & Research Center (Mersin, Turkey)
— Baku Talent School, Planetarium (Baku, Azerbaijan)
— Coats Observatory, Planetarium (Paisley, Scotland)
— Planet Crete (Crete, Greece)
— Tashkent Planetarium (Tashkent, Uzbekistan)
— Portable Planetarium (Athens, Greece)
— Planetario Malargüe (Mendoza, Argentina)
— Pokhara Planetarium and Science Centre (Pokhara, Nepal)
— JC Cinesferic (Madrid, Spain)
— Scientific Club Dome (Doha, Qatar)
— Planetarium Royal Observatory of Belgium (Brussels, Belgium)
— Portable Planetarium (Loja, Ecuador)
— Portable Planetarium (Huelva, Spain)
— Pro Planetario Movel (Curitiba, Brazil)
— Gyeongsangnamdo Institute of Science Education (Jinseong-myeon, South Korea)
— Gwangju Education and Science Research Institute (Ullim-dong, South Korea)
— Societatea Astronomica Andromeda – Astroclub Cluj Napoca (Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
— Sternwarte-Schaffhausen Planetarium (Sternwarte Schaffhausen, Switzerland)
— Santa Catarina State University (Florianópolis, Brazil)
— University of the Free State – Naval Hill Planetarium at the Centre for Earth & Space (Bloemfontein, South Africa)
— Stardome (Matane, Canada)
— Portable Planetarium (Japan)
— Leo Planetaria Astronomy Education (Janakpuri, India)
— HongDaeyong Science Museum, Planetarium (Jangsan-ri, South Korea)
— AL-Ma’arifa Foundation For Culture (Baghdad, Iraq)
— Portable Planetarium (France)
— Urânia Planetário Móvel (Santa Catarina, Brazil)
— SARL Unevisiteduciel (Mérignac, France)
— Portable Planetarium (Popayán, Colombia)
— imseCAVE, University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
— Havayeda Science Center, Portable Planetarium (Bat Yam, Israel)
— Santa Maria Federal University, Planetarium (Santa Maria, Brazil)
— Mark Rutherford School, Portable Planetarium (Bedford, UK)
— Portable Planetarium (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
— Planetário Divino Mestre (Jaboatão dos Guararapes, Brazil)
— Portable Planetarium (Madrid, Spain)
— Portable Planetarium (Senec, Slovakia)
— China Science and Technology Museum (Beijing, China)
— Museo El Rehilete, Planetario (Pachuca, Mexico)
— Planetario de Santiago, Universidad de Santiago de Chile (Santiago, Chile)
— Portable Planetarium (Switzerland)
— Brasilia Planetarium (Brasília, Brazil)
— Planetário Divino Mestre (Jaboatão dos Guararapes, Brazil)
— Portable Planetarium, Association Proscience, Te turu ‘ihi (Papeete, French Polynesia)
— Portable Planetarium (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
— Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre, Planetarium (Kuwait City, Kuwait)
— Surat Science Centre, Planetarium (Surat, India)
— Museo Laberinto de las Ciencia y las Artes, Planetarium (San Luis Potosi, Mexico)
— Dinsha Patel Planetarium (Nadiad, India)
— Portable Planetarium (Argentina)
— Rapanui Planetarium (Easter Island, Chile)
— İzmir Planetaryum (İzmir, Turkey)
— SI-NE Portable Planetarium (Itagüí, Colombia)
— Portable Planetarium (Moscow, Russia)

USA Planetariums
— Museum of Science, Charles Hayden Planetarium (Boston, MA)
— East Village Planetarium, The Girls Club (New York, NY)
— Hokulani Imaginarium, Windward Community College (Kaneohe, Hawaii)
— Daniel M. Soref Planetarium, Milwaukee Public Museum (Milwaukee, WI)
— Dr. Sandra F. Pritchard Mather Planetarium, West Chester University (West Chester, PA)
— University of Alaska Anchorage Planetarium (Anchorage, Alaska)
— Ward Beecher Planetarium, Youngstown State University (Youngstown, OH)
— Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Planetarium (Dayton, OH)
— Acheson Planetarium, Cranbrook Institute of Science (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
— Neag Planetarium, Reading Public Museum (Reading, PA)
— Longway Planetarium, Sloan Museum (Flint, MI)
— University of Texas at Arlington Planetarium (Arlington, TX)
— Rollins Planetarium, Young Harris College (Young Harris, GA)
— Wausau School District Planetarium (Wausau, WI)
— Sudekum Planetarium, Adventure Science Center (Nashville, TN)
— Raritan Valley Community College Planetarium (Somerville, NJ)
— Delta College Planetarium (Bay City, MI)
— Buhl Planetarium, Carnegie Science Center (Pittsburgh, PA)
— Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium, The University of Maine (Orono, ME)
— Obscura Digital (San Francisco, CA)
— Peoria Riverfront Museum, Planetarium (Peoria, IL)
— Glastonbury Planetarium (Glastonbury, CT)
— Edelman Planetarium, Rowan University (Glassboro, NJ)
— Harlan Rowe Middle School Planetarium (Athens, PA)
— Hallstrom Planetarium, Indian River State College (Fort Pierce, FL)
— Starlab Portable Planetarium (Massillon, OH)
— Charles W. Brown Planetarium, Ball State University (Muncie, IN)
— Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium, The University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ)
— Dreyfuss Planetarium, Newark Museum (Newark, NJ)
— Clark Planetarium (Salt Lake City, UT)
— Downing Planetarium, Fresno State (Fresno, CA)
— Gates Planetarium, Denver Museum of Nature and Science (Denver, CO)
— Ask Jeeves Planetarium, Chabot Space & Science Center (Oakland, CA)
— Truman State University Planetarium (Kirksville, MO)
— SUNY Oneonta Planetarium (Oneonta, NY)
— Portable Planetarium (Antioch, CA)
— Arthur Storer Planetarium (Prince Frederick, MD)
— Adler Planetarium (Chicago, IL)
— York Learning Center Planetarium, York County Astronomical Society (North York, PA)
— COSI Planetarium (Columbus, OH)
— FLHS Planetarium (Fair Lawn, NJ)
— Austin Mobile Planetarium (Austin, TX)
— Argus IMRA Planetarium (Ann Arbor, MI)
— Anchorage Museum, Planetarium (Anchorage, AK)
— Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium (Fort Myers, FL)
— Northside ISD Planetarium (San Antonio, TX)
— SMSU Planetarium (Marshall, MN)
— Roberson Museum and Science Center (Binghamton, NY)
— West Virginia University Planetarium (Morgantown, WV)
— University of Michigan, Museum of Natural History, Planetarium (Ann Arbor, MI)
— The Children’s Museum (West Hartford, CT)
— Fort Lupton High School, Planetarium (Fort Lupton, CO)
— The Christa McAuliffe Center, FSU Planetarium (Framingham, MA)
— Williamsville Space Lab Planetarium (Williamsville, NY)
— Christenberry Planetarium (Birmingham, AL)
— Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, Planetarium (Fort Collins, CO)
— Chabot College Planetarium (Hayward, CA)
— Science Museum of Virginia, Planetarium (Richmond, VA)
— IAIA: Institute of American Indian Arts, Digital Dome (Santa Fe, NM)
— Chapel of Sacred Mirrors [CoSM], Dome (Wappingers Falls, New York)
— Eastern Michigan University, Planetarium (Ypsilanti, MI)
— Los Alamos Nature Center, Planetarium (Los Alamos, NM)
— New Mexico Museum of Space History, Tombaugh Planetarium (Alamogordo, NM)
— Manheim Township Planetarium (Lancaster, PA)
— Illinois State University Planetarium (Normal, IL)
— Planetarium at the College of Southern Nevada (Henderson, NV)
— Gheens Science Hall & Rauch Planetarium, University of Louisville (Louisville, KY)
— North Museum of Nature and Science, Planetarium (Lancaster, PA)
— SciTech Museum, Planetarium (Aurora, IL)
— Hatter Planetarium, Gettysburg College (Gettysburg, PA)
— John Glenn High School Planetarium (Westland, MI)
— Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Planetarium (Kalamazoo, MI)
— Collier County Public Schools, Portable Planetarium (Naples, FL)
— The College of Southern Nevada, Planetarium (Las Vegas, NV)
— Portable Planetarium (Centennial, CO)
— Northwest College Planetarium (Powell, WY)
— Andrews Independent School District (Andrews, TX)
— Wynwood Dome (Miami, FL)
— Portable Planetarium (Los Angeles, CA)
— Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Omnisphere Theater, Columbus State University (Columbus, GA)
— James E. Richmond Science Center, Planetarium (Waldorf, MD)
— Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium (St Johnsbury, VT)
— Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Noble Planetarium (Fort Worth, TX)
— Mesquite ISD Planetarium (Mesquite, TX)
— Amber Dust Dome, Burning Man (Black Rock City, NV)
— Portable Planetarium (New York)
— Fredonia Observatory, State University of New York at Fredonia (Fredonia, NY)
— Portable Planetarium (Indianola, IA)
— Wisdome (Los Angeles, CA)
— Jim and Linda Lee Planetarium, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Prescott, AZ)
— Desert Dwellers & Datagrama performance, Science Museum of Virginia, Planetarium (Richmond, VA)

— ESO Fulldome Archive
— Sky-Skan
— Spitz: Scidome Network
— ZEISS Powerdomes
— Digitalis Education Solutions
— Fulldome Film Society
— Dome Club (UK)
— British Fulldome Institute
— EnterIdeas
— Emerald Digital Planetariums
— Loch Ness Productions
— LSS Planetariums Open Project
— Metaspace
— E&S Digistar Cloud Library
— Adventure Domes
— Altair Digital
— Kosmos Scientific de México
— Beijing Taihe Legend Film

Visuals by Wade Sylvester & Jason Fletcher – Music & Narration by Wade Sylvester
Charles Hayden Planetarium, Museum of Science. Copyright 2014. All Rights Reserved.


Jupiter Bands Simulation

Just a few days ago, I found out about a MIT competition called The Art of Astrophysics. Naturally my interest was piqued. The only problem was the deadline… 24 hours!

As a back burner project I’ve been experimenting with creating jupiter cloud bands that are truly fluidic. It’s very difficult to keep the multiple bands separate, so I’ve been testing the interaction between just two bands. The Kelvin–Helmholtz instability is a fascinating topic to focus on, but it’s heavy to simulate and difficult to predict.

Often when I begin these type of experiments, I’m on a grand impossible mission. Those make for the most interesting challenges right? And this time I was on a mission to create jupiter or a hot jupiter as a fluid dynamic system. In the past I’ve created a hot jupiter animated texture in After Effects, using the turbulence displacement and the twist effects. But I wanted a system that was self-reliant. And so, as always, I get stuck on the quest for that holy grail and need a jolt to remind me that often the steps along the way are quite interesting.

So I selected one particularly beautiful simulation in Maya, cached/rendered it, and then spent the rest of the evening tweaking in After Effects. It was fun trying to burn out and degrade the footage to make it appear as if it was raw data from a satellite or space telescope. A bit far fetched, I know, to see an extreme zoom of a hot jupiter, but hey I had a vision and had to run with it. So in homage to that fact, I appropriately named it ‘The (Fictitious) Formation of a Hot Jupiter Cloud Band’.

You might be wondering why I cropped the video in this strange boxed style with burnt edges and film grain… Well I was trying to mimic the the style raw data of a satellite. I actually used this jupiter image as a the source for the border and overall inspiration. I’m not sure if it’s simply a stitch of several images, the sensor blocking out specific light, or such. But I figured it would be a realistic addition instead of the all-too-perfect Maya render.


I’m not going to explain all the details of this Maya simulation, because honestly it’s just alot of trial and error. Lots of playblasts which need overnight to compute. But see below for the notes which can serve as an introduction for further experimentation.

maya scene – jupiter bands simulation

— The fluid box is wrapping left/right, with the top/bottom closed off.
— There are two volume emitters for the top and bottom half that are keyframed to emit density and velocity at the start frame then turn off quickly.
— There are also two “wind” emitters on the sides to keep the incoming velocity at a fixed rate. They use the replace method and have speed emission with a low rate. The target speed is determined by the directional speed attribute. The rate is the amount that changes the velocity on the fluid to that target speed. So the rate is low in order to keeps things going but not influence the simulation too much. But you can confine the shear region more by increasing the rate.
— There is a very small amount of negative density buoyancy to keep things from mixing too much over time. Increasing the strength of the buoyancy will tend to force the boundary closer to the center, providing the solver quality is high enough or else it will collapse to the bottom. Again tricky business.
— High detail solve and a high grid resolution is used to get more fluid detail. The higher the grid resolution of the fluid, then the more substeps and solver quality that are generally needed. Although substeps also determine how fast the fluid flow is. So it’s a tricky balance. If there is still too much diffusion, try yet higher grid resolution, substeps, and solver quality. Also a higher resolution, higher solver quality, and more substeps should create more small scale eddies.
— For a little extra detail you can play around with the Density noise, Density tension, Gradient force. Try tiny values between 0.01 to 0.05

I couldn’t have got this far without the help of Duncan Brinsmead, Principal Scientist at Autodesk. I contacted him because I was curious of his approach to this type of simulation and his response was insightful.

The song in the video is In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg. I am amazed at the beautiful diversity of classical music recordings that are public domain licensed on the MusOpen website. What a serendipitous boon finding this!

More about The Art of Astrophysics Competition:
Astrophysicists try to share the mysteries of the Universe around us in a clear and understandable fashion, but we don’t always succeed. It’s a hard challenge – the wonders of the Solar System, the Galaxy, and the ever expanding Cosmos demand more of our imaginations than can be captured by numbers in a table or terms in an equation. However, a work of art can uniquely inspire us to look closely, to dream freely, to understand openly – anything from the smallest curiosity to the biggest discovery.

So, we’re asking members of the MIT community to create works of art that help us visualize our Universe and how we observe it. Whether you’re a photographer or a poet, a crafter or a coder, a musician or a moviemaker, we want you to use your talents and creativity to illuminate the beauty of astrophysical results. Please consider participating in this year’s Art of Astrophysics competition during MIT’s 2014 Independent Activities Period (IAP), sponsored by the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.

View All of the Art Submissions — View the Winners

Charles River Gallery: LED Bridge

Update: January 18, 2017
Prior to installing the LED screens onto the Charles River Bridge, we wanted to get a feel for the experience it would create in the lobby. So we used a 3D model of the Museum of Science lobby to create a virtual tour that could be watched in the the planetarium dome. It was a great way to be immersed in the project prior to it actually being built. The Jupiter band simulation was chosen to be included in the official launch of the LED bridge.

Background Stars v2

example_render(This post is an update to Background Stars v1. It will provide some context.)

A while back I shared a ‘star globe’ which has the night sky mapped onto a sphere. This can be used to completely surround a maya scene with stars. Andrew Hazelden and I often collaborate on various fulldome projects and he had an idea of how to re-engineer the star globe into requiring only 1 surface and 1 file texture. This allows for a vast improvement in rendertime. For instance:
— 4-poly & 4 texture star globe – 1m 40s
— 1-poly & 1 texture star globe – 30s

A bunch of other improvements are included:
— Fixes the grey blurry line glitch since it uses a Mental Ray texture network.
— A 2k texture for previewing in the Maya viewport. Then 8k texture used for renders.
— Other lights in the scene will not affect the star globe.
— Star globe never casts shadows.
— Star globe will automatically show up in reflections & refractions.
— Renders faster since the 1 texture needs much less initialization and poly is reduced.
— Here is a detailed explanation of these things are achieved.

maya scene – star globe
(also available in the Domemaster3D toolset)


Fake Ambient Occlusion


Ambient occlusion is quite a helpful effect in easily achieving some realism. But the default render layer occlusion setup in Maya is somewhat render intensive. And when you’re doing lots of render tests, well you just want to see it quickly.

fake-ambient-occlusion-tutorialSo we can speed up the render process by instead using Final Gather to computer the occlusion and then use the mib_fg_occlusion utility shader to make it grayscale. Then by adjusting the Final Gather render settings we can affect the render times. This is really helpful if you are doing a test render where the render quality is not paramount, but later you can increase the settings for the final render.

To the right is a tutorial of how to get the mib_fg_occlusion node setup within a surface shader. You must use mental ray since that is what Final Gather requires.

You can also learn more in depth about the mib_fg_occlusion utility shader and how to get a texture with transparency to be recognized.


The Nebula Challenge

One of the most difficult types of space imagery to create is a volumetric nebula. There are three main styles of nebulae to imitate: diffuse nebulae, planetary nebulae, and supernova remnants. The fluid framework within Maya is extremely flexible but it can be very tricky to just get a fluid/emitter set up with settings that are repeatable.

So to ease the cumbersome setup, below is a maya scene for the interactive creation of a fluid nebula. While experimenting with the attributes it’s important to have a real nebula reference image in mind; or else you’ll just continue tweaking attributes without any real measure of when it’s done. With fluids it’s quite easy to run down endless rabbit holes… There are just so many attributes that are interlocked. But it’s not impossible to tame fluids, you just need to have a goal in mind.

The nebula maker template is initially set up to have the look of a supernova shell because it’s actually more useful to experiment with. But I’ll share how to adjust the opacity ramp to create a diffuse nebula.

Wade Sylvester, a Science Visualizer here in the planetarium, is a master of fluids, particles, and environment creation. All of this work has been pioneered by his endless experiments and dreams. So with this fluid container/emitter you can create a smörgåsbord of nebulae. Below I’ll outline some of the specific attributes to experiment with.

If you find yourself wondering what a specific attribute does then you should check out the fluidShape article. It is very detailed and thorough.

maya scene – nebula maker template

Progressive experiments with various attributes.

What’s Going On Here?
Basically the ‘FluidEmitter’ is emitting a very simple fluid into the ‘NebulaFluid’ container. The ‘NebulaFluid’ container then is further refining that fluid with tons of available attributes. So this tutorial is a deep explanation of how to best control the ‘NebulaFluid’ container attributes.

After the fluid is emitted, it can then be shaded by defining its color, incandescence, and opacity. Then you can further refine the look of the fluid by adding a texture. This is a volumetric texture that is cutting out the fluid to make it look irregular and organic. The texture is not created by the emitted fluid, but is instead a separate fractal system overlaid into the fluid.

First Steps
1) Lets make sure you can preview the fluid in the viewport as best as possible. In the viewport menubar: Shading / click ‘Smooth Shade All’ AND check ‘Hardware Texturing’. This really helps to directly see some of the attributes being changed in the viewport.
2) Lets also make sure to let the fluid computation control how fast the timeline moves: Right-click on timeline / Playback Speed / select: ‘Play Every Frame, Free’
3) Rewind the timeline to 1. Then let it play until around frame 18. You’re welcome to explore anywhere in the timeline. But something to remember with fluids is that they have the most intricate of details right when their emitted. So frame 18 is a place where it has nice density and detail.
4) Experiment with the attributes outlined in the tutorial below.


Done? Finalize It
So you’re done experimenting and want to freeze the nebula into place. Now we are going to give the fluid container an initial state and stop emitting fluid.
1) It’s very important to make sure that you have a project set. The initial state is NOT stored within the maya scene file. So if you don’t have your project set, then you will likely lose your initial state when next opening Maya and your fluid will instead look blank.
(example location: project/cache/SceneName.mb_fluidShape1.mcfi)
2) If you want to change your fluid Resolution then this is the last chance. But be sure to re-emit via the timeline!
3) Select the NebulaFluid container. Then in the menubar, go to Fluid Effects and click Set Initial State.
(If this doesn’t work then try: Solvers / Initial State / Set For Selected)
4) Then in the NebulaFluidShape tab of the attribute editor and check the box for Disable Evaluation.
5) DONE! Now you can animate a camera and the nebula is locked in place. If you want to animate the nebula, I would suggest experimenting with Texture Time. But any of the shading & texture attributes are still editable and key-able.
(Note: to see any keyed textures in the viewport, you must have the NebulaFluid selected and the attribute editor open!)

Examples of the different types of nebulae that can be created.

Fix for Maya – RenderView Not Found


Have you ever opened up a Maya scene downloaded from a website and upon trying to do a render… all you get is a blank window and an error! BAH!

Error: setParent: object ‘renderView’ not found

RenderViewError-TutorialLuckily there is an easy solution to fix this. Check out the tutorial to the right on how to create a MEL shelf button to keep this solution handy. The MEL script is below.

for ($item in `getPanel -scriptType "renderWindowPanel"`) {
if ( $item == "renderView" ) {
print "renderView exists.\n";
if ( $exists == 0 ) {
for ($item in `getPanel -scriptType "renderWindowPanel"`) {
//print ( $item + "\n");
if ( $item == "renderWindowPanel1" ) {
deleteUI renderWindowPanel1;
$renderPanel = `scriptedPanel -type "renderWindowPanel" -unParent renderView`;
scriptedPanel -e -label `interToUI $renderPanel` $renderPanel;

Note: A permanent way to fix this issue is to simply upgrade Maya 2012 with the latest service pack. But this requires a reinstall of Maya… And when you’re in the middle of production, well thats just not a pleasant option.