Colors, The Art of Ecology

“Galaxy Print” – What is it Made of?

Galaxy print is trendy right now. There are Galaxy print leggings, back-to-school supplies decorated with galaxies, and I’ve even seen Galaxy print bed sheets! In fact – I have a galaxy tattoo (long story….)

We find space to be mysterious, beautiful, and awe-inspiring, but do we even know what galaxy print is made of – or do we just love the colors, sparkle, or the mystery of it? Let’s figure out the different layers of “Galaxy Print”.

First of all – why is space “black”? On Earth, the light from our sun enters the atmosphere and gets trapped beneath it where it bounces around on gases, dust, and other particles in the air. Blue light is the most efficiently scattered and the other waves of light don’t scatter as much – which is why we see the sky as blue. During the night, when the sun’s light isn’t able to reach us and bounce around, we don’t see blue sky, but the black of space. Space doesn’t have an atmosphere like our planet, so the light from stars doesn’t get trapped. 

The New Mexican Sky. Tiny pinpricks of light are stars. Grainy “dust” right over the mountains in the faint outline of the Milky Way!

We may wonder why, with so many stars in the heavens, why they don’t light up space as much? This exact question is called Olber’s Paradox. Despite there being bright lights everywhere, space isn’t fully lit up. This could be because the light from stars VERY far away have not reached our eyes yet – we’re only seeing the light from stars that are close enough to have their light waves reach our eyes.

Now, then if space is so black, why does “Galaxy Print” even exist with all of it’s colors? Those colors are nebulae, or clouds of various gases and dust particles. The light from various stars bounce off of those gases and particles and scatters, similarly to how the light from our sun scatters blue light into our atmosphere.

A View of Space and all of it’s beautiful shapes and colors! (Image not taken by me, labeled for Reuse)

Different Nebulae are comprised of different things, which allows them to reflect those various colors that we love so much. For example, Emission Nebulae, which are mostly comprised of Hydrogen particles, scatter red light. Sites of star formation have a relatively even distribution of dust and gas particles, thus scattering blue (again, it’s the most efficiently scattered wave of light). Larger dust particles do a great job of blocking light and causing light to bend around them. These Nebulae are called “Dark Nebulae” and are black with hints of dark purple. Dying stars produce a gas that hovers in a shell around them until they finally implode. During the process of dying, the Nebulae will appear a teal color (blueish-green). When the star finally dies, it creates an event called a Supernova. The gases and star matter from this event cause a Nebulae that appears Golden-Yellow.

These wispy, wavy clouds are what comprise “Galaxy Print”, but the print wouldn’t be complete without a smattering of shiny stars! One reason why stars are so shiny is because they are continually undergoing a process of transformation where hydrogen gas is converted into Helium. This process creates an amazing amount of heat, which creates light. Think of fire, or metal being heated (red-hot/white-hot metal glows) – they both create light. The sun is so close to our solar system that it doesn’t take as long for the light to reach our eyes. Stars that are farther away, like those in the Orion constellation, shine light that takes much longer to reach our eyes.

The Orion Nebula (Image not taken by me. Labeled for Reuse)

Yes – Galaxy print is amazing and mysterious, but hopefully, you now understand more about the beauty behind it!

During one of my Artsy Naturalist DIY Nights, we painted Galaxy Print Wine Glasses all while learning about some of the beautiful facets of space. Feel like you missed out on a great event? Don’t worry! I hold these art & science workshops routinely. You can find my upcoming events, Artsy Naturalist DIY Night Themes, and more here!

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