NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope: Interpreting the Past, Inspiring the Future
Since the dawn of civilization, humans have looked up to the night sky, pondering on the riddles posed by the universe, seeking answers to questions bigger than ourselves. This air of wonder has always flowed throughout the creative process at ARTECHOUSE, fueling our passion for innovative exhibitions that meld artistic creativity and scientific exploration. To unravel these enigmas, we team up with collaborators; leaders in their field who look to push boundaries to leave an original mark on the world.
It was this shared mission of innovating and inspiring the world through discovery that naturally drew us towards a collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). With talks starting in 2018 between ARTECHOUSE and NASA, what developed was the vision for an exhibition unlike any other. ARTECHOUSE Studio worked alongside NASA scientists, converging artistic and scientific minds, to interpret their vast data vault into an experiential work of art, which culminated in data from NASA’s latest search for unanswered questions, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
For those unfamiliar, the JWST is an infrared telescope comprising a roughly 6.5 meter primary mirror that is made of ultra-lightweight beryllium and features a tennis court-sized sunshield that reduces the heat of the sun more than a million times. Launched into L2 orbit on December 25, 2021, the $10 billion telescope contains four instruments, cameras, and spectrometers that can detect faint emissions from the far corners of our universe.
Developed in collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the JWST was created to unearth the history of the universe since the Big Bang, the formation of the first galaxies, planets, and stars, as well as the origins of life. The JWST has produced remarkable findings that surpassed scientists’ expectations, including a recent detection of the most distant active supermassive black hole thus far. Dubbed CEERS 1019, the supermassive black hole is notably smaller than usual, weighing in at only 9 million solar masses, as opposed to the average 1 billion solar masses.
For those not well-versed in science, engineering, or astronomy, the wonders of space research often remain beyond the grasp of full comprehension. That is where the function of art has helped to bridge the gap for the culturally curious. ARTECHOUSE collaborated on the scientists of JWST with NASA and STScl to create a flythrough experience. A custom system was employed to transform telescope images into animated, dimensional point clouds, allowing a simulated camera to navigate the vast cosmic landscape. This process, enhanced with a ‘hue scanning’ effect for the JWST images, emulated the wide-range capture of different wavelengths and replicated the work of NASA astrophotographers, resulting in a journey through space that culminated in stunning, fully-formed visuals.
Our exhibition, Beyond the Light, is an ode to the boundless cosmos. It centers around a 26-minute immersive installation and spotlights discoveries from JWST brought to life in dynamic motion. An original artistic expression of how the human experience of light has evolved from prehistoric times to the present day, imagining the unfathomable existence of the great beyond. Set against the vast scope of the universe, this cinematic experience aims to take you on the “ultimate trip”, by kindling the spirit of exploration and risk-taking built into the very fabric of our bodies, a spirit born from over 70,000 years of boundary-pushing, ever since our ancestors decided to explore beyond their known horizons.
Equal parts knowledge and imagination, Beyond the Light aims to create a universal audio-visual experience that transcends conventional storytelling. By utilizing the latest in projection technology, we’ve created an 18k canvas boasting an astounding 100 million pixels, enabling us to depict the universe in ways never seen before. Through this unique fusion of art, science, and technology, we aim to ignite the audience’s imagination, inspiring them to ideate their own “beyond the light” guided by scientific insights unveiled through this exhibition.
Right now, over 7,702 satellites are orchestrating a silent dance