I found the 600 people performance an informative experience. As someone who is not interested in space whatsoever, it was engaging and although I found a lot of it confusing I learnt a great deal about something that I did not know anything about previously. Personally I totally don’t like space stuff, like searching for aliens or water or whatever spacemen do. I do however like stars.
For a bit I’ve struggled with this brief. I tried to think of ways to use design to create something that directly relates to the whole performance, but after conversations with others it was learnt that I could just use it as inspiration.
Initial Research And Ideas
I remember speaking to NAME after the performance back in the studio, I asked him what he was looking for… However, he didn’t know. He did however say that he liked the old hitchhikers guide to the galaxy illustrations and could see that working for him, but he was open to anything. I started to research this and looked back at the script pinpointing things that I could illustrate.
I think these are what he meant?
After seeing these I printed off the script and began highlighting key parts, with the intention of creating an illustrated program or new animated presentation. I’m not an illustrator and I’m deffo not an animator. I can’t even make a stop motion! Nothing I drew looked quite right. And so I gave up for a bit and concentrated on other stuff.
After chatting to Lee and Paul, we discussed how instead of doing something so obvious, I could simply use it as inspiration. I started to think about stuff that I like, and although I really don’t like space, I do really enjoy looking at the stars. So I decided that I would use this opportunity to learn some new stuff.
I don’t know anything about stars so I thought a good place to start would be to simply Google ‘basic facts about stars’ (bit lame I know). But I’m glad I did. This gave me something to start off with so that I could look at more complex information.
From being really obvious and ‘googling’, ‘basic facts about stars’ I learnt:
- There are around 200 billion stars in the Milky Way alone
- VY Canis Majoris is the largest known star in our galaxy, if this star was in the center of our solar system its outer atmosphere would reach the orbit of Saturn.
- One of the smallest known stars in our galaxy is VB 10, it is only around 20% larger than Jupiter.
- There is a maximum of 2,500 stars visible to the naked eye at any one time in the night sky.
- The lifespan of our own star, the Sun, is around 10 billion years.
Stars form inside clouds of dust and gas, that are made up entirely of hydrogen and helium known as nebulas. These nebulas can either form due to the gravitational collapse of gas in the interstellar medium (what’s this?) or can be the result of the death throws of a massive star. Hydrogen clumps together inside these clouds f gas which continue to grow in size and become hotter in temperature and pressure, until it becomes the early stage of a star called, a protostar. As the gravity collapses, the pressure and heat in the new protostar causes nuclear fusion. This means that the star is fusing hydrogen atoms, creating huge amounts of energy, this stage is called main sequence. Any one star could remain in this state for billions and in some cases trillions of years.
(Interstellar medium is the matter that exists in the space between the star systems in a galaxy. This includes gas in ionic, atomic and molecular forms, as well as dust.)
The life cycles of stars follow patterns based mostly on their initial mass. These include intermediate-mass stars such as the sun, with half to eight times the mass of the sun, high-mass stars that are more than eight solar masses, and low-mass stars a tenth to half a solar mass in size. The greater a star’s mass, the shorter its lifespan generally is. Objects smaller than a tenth of a solar mass do not have enough gravitational pull to ignite nuclear fusion — some might become failed stars known as brown dwarfs.
The greater the mass of a star, the more quickly it will use its fuel shortening the time it stays on the main sequence. After all the hydrogen in the core is fused into helium, the star rapidly changes. Without nuclear radiation, gravity immediately crushes matter down into the star’s core, quickly heating the star. This causes the star’s outer layers to expand and to cool and glow red, rendering the star a red giant. Helium then begins to fuse at the centre, and once the helium is gone, the core contracts and becomes hotter, once more expanding the star but making it bluer and brighter. After the expanding shells of gas fade, the remaining core is left, a white dwarf that consists mostly of carbon and oxygen with an initial temperature of roughly 180,000 degrees F (100,000 degrees C). Since white dwarves have no fuel left for fusion, they grow cooler over billions of years to become black dwarves that are too faint to detect. (Our sun should leave the main sequence in about 5 billion years.)
Main sequence stars are ofter referred to as ‘dwarfs’ (like our sun). When a star can no longer fuse hydrogen from inside itself it begins to use the hydrogen found towards the outer, this cause the star to greatly grow in size and eventually becoming a ‘giant’. The colour of stars can also vary, it all depends on its surface temperature.
Red Dwarfs – Are the most common type of star found in our galaxy, they are some 50% smaller that the sun and are therefore much cooler and emit far less energy. They tend to burn their fuel much slower than hotter stars which prolongs their lifespan resulting in them surviving for hundreds of billions of years.
Orange Dwarfs – These too are common in out galaxy. Orange dwarfs stay in the main sequence period of their lifespan up to three times longer than yellow dwarfs such as our sun. As a result orange dwarf systems are considered very stable environments for the development of planets and the evolutionary process of life.
Yellow Dwarfs - The Sun in the centre of our solar system is a Yellow Dwarf, these are stars that have approximately between 0.8 to 1.2 the mass of our sun. The name Yellow Dwarf is rather misleading, firstly our sun only appears yellow due to the light interacting with Earth’s atmosphere, it is in fact white as is the case with the majority of Yellow Dwarfs. Secondly even though our sun is referred to as a ‘dwarf’ it is in fact larger in mass that the vast majority of stars in our galaxy. The lifespan of a Yellow Dwarf in its main sequence is around 10 billion years.
Since the habits of man have been recorded it has been clear that stars played a key part in religion and were vital to navigation. Furthermore, Astronomy, the study of the heavens, may be the oldest of all sciences. With the invention of the telescope and realisation of gravity during the 17th century, it became apparent that the stars are like the sun.
There are currently 88 officially recognised star constellations that are seen in the sky. 48 of these are known as ancient or original, meaning that they can be dated back to the Ancient Greeks and possibly early civilisations. These ancient cultures saw patterns in the heavens that resembled people, animals or common objects, some even came to represent mythological or religious figures, for example Orion, a hero in Greek mythology. These are found mostly in the Northern Hemisphere. After the 15th century, with new means of travel and navigation, the new explorers began chartering the stars found further south. Astronomers now often use constellations in the naming of stars. Usually, the brightest star in a constellation has “alpha,” the first letter of the Greek alphabet, as part of its scientific name. The second brightest star in a constellation is typically designated “beta,” the third brightest “gamma,” and so on until all the Greek letters are used, after which numerical designations follow.