Randy Krum infographic designerRandy Krum

President of InfoNewt.
Data Visualization, Infographic Design, Visual Thinking, Product Development and Marketing professional fascinated by good infographics.  Always looking for better ways to get the point across.

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Entries in space (42)


Asteroid ‘Spooky’ Will Flyby Earth on Halloween

National Geographic has published a great data visualization that compares the estimated size of the asteroid "Spooky" discovered only a few weeks ago with the well-known skyscrapers in New York City, Asteroid Called ‘Spooky’ Will Buzz Earth on Halloween

Astronomers from NASA's Near Earth Object Program first spotted the incoming asteroid on October 10, just three weeks before its closest approach. It was too small and faint to detect until it came within the range of large survey telescopes.

Nicknamed Spooky, the asteroid (officially called 2015 TB145) is estimated to be about 950 to 2,100 feet wide (290 to 650 meters). Scientists won't be sure of its exact size until they can do radar measurements—and the most accurate will be on Halloween, when it passes the closest.

This is a perfect way to use data visualization to put the information into perspective for the audience. It would be nice to have more of the building identified.


The Slow Speed of Light

Riding Light from Alphonse Swinehart on Vimeo.


We think of the speed of light as incredibly fast, but in the video Riding Light, by Alphonse Swinehart, we ride along with light as it starts in our Sun and moves out past Jupiter in our solar system. The video is 45 minutes long and helps show both how large our solar system is, and that it still takes light a long time to travel these large distances.

In our terrestrial view of things, the speed of light seems incredibly fast. But as soon as you view it against the vast distances of the universe, it’s unfortunately very slow. This animation illustrates, in realtime, the journey of a photon of light emitted from the surface of the sun and traveling across a portion of the solar system, from a human perspective.

I’ve taken liberties with certain things like the alignment of planets and asteroids, as well as ignoring the laws of relativity concerning what a photon actually “sees” or how time is experienced at the speed of light, but overall I’ve kept the size and distances of all the objects as accurate as possible. I also decided to end the animation just past Jupiter as I wanted to keep the running length below an hour.

During the course of the video, I also love the data visualziations shown during the flight, like how large the orbits of different planets appear to us as we move outward.


The Massive SciFi Starship Size Comparison Chart

The Final SciFi Starship Spaceship Size Comparison Chart infographic

The massive SciFi Starship Size Comparison Chart is one of my favorite infographic design projects. Designed by Dirk Loechel and shared on DeviantArt, this is a project he has been working on for years. I posted an earlier version of his design in 2013 here which was hugely popular. Dirk’s notes claim that this may be the last update.

The last update

For real this time: This is the final major content update, though if there are issues I’ll still fix them. I also haven’t forgotten I wanted to vectorize the writing. It’s still on the radar. But content-wise, I think that is about all I can put in. 

Also, I added the ISS. For scale. It’s on top, with a yellow frame so it’s relatively easy to find.

Lots of errors fixed, lots of new ships too. Well, off for now, but I’ll be replying in the comments more or less regularily. 

This is probably at least for the forseseeable future the last round of adding ships. I have pretty much all I wanted now (excepting some old scifi, and many Anime series, which tend to not have many usable images). Lots of new content.

And that’s it for now. Enjoy the new-and-improved chart! 

This is one of the visual designs that clearly demonstrates why visuals can be much more effective than text descriptions. Especially when it comes to comparing size and scale. You just don’t comprehend the scope when someone tells you that the Star Wars Executor Class Super Star Destroyer is 19,000 meters long. You have to see it in comparison to something you already know.

The images on DeviantArt are high enough in resolution, that you can download and print it out as a poster yourself to hang on your wall. The full-size poster resolution is 4,268 x 5,690 pixels. Most of the ships are clustered by franchise (Star Wars, Star Trek, Halo, Eve, Warhammer, etc.). As a reality check, the International Space Station (ISS) is included for reference.

Found on Geyser of Awesome, Nerd Approved and Nerdist


If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel

If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel infographic

When we talk about outer space, we have a tendency to use comparisons that are not necessarily true, but still represent large distances. However, If the Moon Were 1 Pixel infographic created by Josh Worth uses pixels to accurately measure out the solar system. Explore the full interactive design here!

If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel infographic

Picture from mic.com

I was talking about the planets with my 5-year-old daughter the other day. I was trying to explain how taking a summer vacation to Mars in the future will be a much bigger undertaking than a trip to Palm Springs (though equally as hot). I kept trying to describe the distance using metaphors like “if the earth was the size of a golf ball, then Mars would be across the soccer field” etc., but I realized I didn’t really know much about these distances, besides the fact that they were really large and hard to understand. Pictures in books, planetarium models, even telescopes are pretty misleading when it comes to judging just how big the universe can be. Are we doing ourselves a disservice by ignoring all the emptiness?

So I thought I would see if a computer screen could help make a map of a solar system that’s a bit more accurate (while teaching myself a few things about javascript, SVGs and viewports along the way).

Not that pixels are any better at representing scale than golfballs, but they’re our main way of interpreting most information these days, so why not the solar system?

I love this animated scale representation of the solar system. Just to fit on the same page, we usually see all of the planets close together in posters and text books. But in the long run, we lose grasp of how much empty space is truly around us.

Found on Mic.com


SciFi Starship Comparison Chart

SciFi Starship Comparison Chart infographic

This is a massive Starship Size Comparison Chart, created by designer Dirk Loechel and posted on DeviantArt.

The design gathers ships from many different science fiction movies, tv shows and games, and sizes them down to a common scale so viewers can grasp the relative size of how large and small the ships they recognize are.

As this get shared heavily online, it would be nice to have the URL back to the original, full-size version included in the design.

I love this size comparison design!  The subtitle mentions that Dirk’s design is “based on the work of others”  A much smaller Starship Size Comparison Chart was one of the first posts on Cool Infographics back in July of 2007, and that version is no longer available online.

Thanks to Mary Kaye for sending me the link!


The Nearest Stars

The Nearest Stars infographic

The Nearest Stars infographic from Space tracks the 53 closest stars to the earth. Their classification and distance is also included.

The nearest stars to Earth are in the Alpha Centauri triple-star system, about 4.37 light-years away. One of these stars, Proxima Centauri, is slightly closer, at 4.24 light-years.

Of all the stars closer than 15 light-years, only two are spectral type G, similar to our sun: Alpha Centauri A and Tau Ceti. The majority are M-type red dwarf stars.

Only nine of the stars in this area are bright enough to be seen by the naked human eye from Earth. These brightest stars include Alpha Centauri A and B, Sirius A, Epsilon Eridani, Procyon, 61 Cygni A and B, Epsilon Indi A and Tau Ceti.

Barnard’s Star, a red dwarf 5.96 light-years away, has the largest proper motion of any known star. This means that Barnard’s Star moves rapidly against the background of more distant stars, at a rate of 10.3 seconds of arc per Earth year.

Sirius A is the brightest star in Earth’s night sky, due to its intrinsic brightness and its proximity to us. Sirius B, a white dwarf star, is smaller than Earth but has a mass 98 percent that of our sun. 

In late 2012, astronomers discovered that Tau Ceti may host five planets including one within the star’s habitable zone. Tau Ceti is the nearest single G-type star like our sun (although the Alpha Centauri triple-star system also hosts a G-type star and is much closer).

The masses of Tau Ceti’s planets range from between two and six times the mass of Earth.

Great data from Space.com.  The infographic focuses on visualizing the distance of the stars from Earth. In that process, it caused some of the visual to be cluttered.  It’s always hard to convey 3D information on a 2D image.

From a data visualization standpoint, the lower table is unnecessary.  All of that information could have been conveyed in the star map illustration.  The color coding of the names in the map doesn’t match the color coding of the star classifications, and that’s confusing to readers.  It would have also helped to provide an explanation of why star systems can have multiple classifications.

If they wanted to keep the detailed table below, it should include more visual elements. The stellar types with the classification are redundant and can be combined.  The distances could have included bars to show the light years from Earth.  The number of observed planets could have used icons.

Found on Visual.ly


Planets in Orbit Around Earth!

What if we had a planet instead of a Moon? Saturn

What if we had a planet instead of a Moon?  Photographer, space artist, illustrator and former art director for the National Air & Space Museum’s Albert Einstein Planetarium, Ron Miller, created a series of very cool images that visualize how the rest of the planets in our solar system would appear if they orbited Earth at the same distance as the Moon.  

I’ve posted a number of different data visualizations and infographics that help visualize the sizes of the different planets, and this is a very cool approach that might make the relative sizes more relevant and understandable to a bigger audience that is already used to seeing the Moon in our sky.  For comparison, here is the original photo of the Moon:

What if we had a planet instead of a Moon?

From Ron’s description:

At a distance of about 240,000 miles, the Moon occupies a space in the night sky about half a degree wide. By sheer coincidence, this is almost exactly the same size the sun appears, which is why we occasionally get total solar eclipses.

But it’s interesting to imagine what the night sky might look like if one of the Solar System’s planets were to replace our moon. (We’d have to ignore things like tides and gravitation, but that’s the advantage of doing things in the mind’s eye.)  Saturn would be an astonishing sight. Almost 35 times larger than the Moon, this golden globe would cover nearly 18 degrees of the sky. We’d be a little further away from Saturn than its satellite Dione. In fact, we’d be more likely to be a satellite of Saturn ourselves than the other way around. The rings would stretch nearly from horizon to horizon.

Of course, the gas giant Jupiter is downright scary!

What if we had a planet instead of a Moon? Jupiter

View all of the full size images in Ron’s post on io9!

Found on My Modern Met and The Daily Mail


How Many Alien Civilizations are there in the Galaxy?

How May Alien Civilizations are There in the Galaxy? infographic

Very cool!  The How Many Alien Civilizations are there in the Galaxy? infographic from BBC was designed by Information is Beautiful to illustrate the Drake equation. The Drake equation is an equation used to calculate how many potential aliens may exist in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Today, we live in an age of exploration, where robots on Mars and planet-hunting telescopes are beginning to allow us to edge closer to an answer.

While we wait to establish contact, one technique we can use back on Earth is an equation that American astronomer Frank Drake formulated in the 1960s to calculate the number of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations may exist in the Milky Way galaxy.

It is not a rigorous equation, offering a wide range of possible answers. Instead it is more a tool used to help understand how many worlds might be out there and how those estimates change as missions like Kepler, a telescope that is currently searching for Earth-like planets, begin to discover more about our universe.

Until ground-based observations, space telescopes and planet-roving robots uncover any tell-tale signs of life, what better way to speculate on how many intelligent alien civilizations may exist than to explore the universe with our interactive version of the equation.

It’s actually an interactive infographic because it let’s the user change the assumptions and recalculate the results.  So if you only believe there is a 50% chance of plant life developing, change the assumption value and recalculate.

Found on FastCo Design.


How Far is it to Mars?

How Far is it to Mars? motion infographic

How Far is it to Mars? by David Paliwoda is a fantastic animated, interactive infographic website that shows the viewer the scale of the distance to the Moon and to Mars as measured in pixels.  David calls this a motion-infographic.

Click the image above to see the animated site.  Very cool! 

Found on Daring Fireball



Asteroids Close Encounters infographic

Simon Scarr is doing some great work as the Graphics Director at the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong.  Last month he designed Close Encounters, the full-page visualization of the Near-Earth-Objects that have passed within the Moon’s orbit (or will pass by) from 1910-2189.

A 45-metre-wide asteroid came remarkably close to Earth on Friday, even closer than communication and weather satellites. It was be the nearest known close miss for an object of its size.   

When this story was first mentioned in the newsroom, a few days before the incident, it sparked debate. People were intrigued as to how close these objects come to Earth. How many pass by? And how fast or large are they? A perfect opportunity for an interesting graphic.    

As usual, NASA had every piece of information we needed. Their Near-Earth Object Program was established in 1998 to help coordinate, and provide a focal point for the study of comets and asteroids that can approach the Earth’s orbit. They have data sets on all close approaches to Earth since 1900 and projected forward to 2200.    

This is a beautiful design that shows the distances to scale by placing them in between the Earth and the Moon, and the horizontal lines show the relative speeds of all the objects.  Orange lines are future, predicted passes.

Simon has posted more behind the scenes information about putting this infographic design together on his own blog.  I highly recommend the post, and you can check out his other work.

Found on Visual Loop.