The Color of Habitability

General / 18 May 2020

By using computer models, we can create thousands of planets to determine the physical and chemical stability of any environment. One parameter domain of interest is the role of surface color on a planet's habitability. Different materials have unique thermal properties that either cool or heat a surface depending on their color and the light that hits them. Dark oceans absorb light well and heat up while white sand is highly reflective and keeps cool. Stars emit different types of light depending on their temperature, cool stars are red while hot stars are blue. Blue starlight on a blue surface will stay cool while blue light on a red surface will heat up and vice-versa for red starlight. This results in a complicated relationship for exoplanets and stars that is important to understand if we are to properly plan observations, analyze data, and make predictions with their results. (Madden 2020 The Color of Habitability)

This work represents the culmination of a large portion of my thesis work in graduate school. The graphic shows examples of the different surfaces we studied. From left to right, 1) A jungle planet around a reddish K-star gave us some of the coldest temperatures because of how well trees reflect the red light. 2) A black basalt planet absorbs light well at all colors, but clouds can shift it toward the chilly side. 3) In the process, we needed to find just the right color to recreate an Earth-like planet around a sun-like star. 4) A dry, sandy world absorbs an incredible amount of blue light making this planet around an F star quite warm. 5) Water absorbs almost all visible light, and since and F star emits most of its energy in the visible, this ocean planet can get extremely hot. These differences in surface temperature are not captured by the calculations if a solid gray color is used for the surface.


Check out this article for more information about the research behind the image. Our paper, How Surfaces Shape the Climate of Habitable Exoplanets, can be found in MNRAS or on ArXiv

MFA Portfolio

General / 24 March 2020

In Fall 2020 I'll be heading to Providence, RI to start my Master of Fine Arts degree at the Rhode Island School of Design. I'll be part of the Digital + Media program that is focused on exploring our relationship with science by using it as a creative tool. I provided these 10 pieces in my portfolio. 

Beyond the Sea - 3D digital - 2019 - This piece combined many techniques I had been refining for several months, such as cloud patterning, lighting, and composition. (more)



Foreign Clouds - 3D digital - 2018 - By playing around with atmospheric composition and star color, the look and feel of an atmosphere can be radically altered from what is familiar to us. (more)



No More Borders - 3D digital - 2019 - This work was the culmination of several weeks' worth of work to achieve realistic looking clouds with proper atmospheric interaction. (more)



Supergiant Sunrise - 3D digital - 2018 - This is how big the sun would look for a habitable planet orbiting a supergiant star. (more)



The Decision - 3D digital - 2019 - This experiment was helpful in bringing together my digital planet work and some of my more abstract ideas from my paintings. (more)



Gatsby - 2D digital, Mathematica - 2019 - For this work, I repurposed a code I used in a research project to remake the iconic Great Gatsby book cover using the entire text of the book. The code I wrote recolored and ordered every character in the text to form the image.



The Myth of Sisyphus - 24"x30" Acrylic on canvas - 2019 - When people question the boundary be existence and non-existence, there may be something specific that they interface with. A religion, a final obstacle, or maybe a distraction whatever it is, they can either push through or back away.



Missing - 16"x20" Acrylic on Canvas - 2019 - My paintings commonly show the rift between black and white as a way to invoke a feeling of dissonance, but often the full message is incomplete. This work helped me capture the feeling when my work is unable to fully transfer my ideas to others as if a piece of the work is missing.



Earth Fall - 12"x12" Acrylic on canvas - 2019 - Existential thought draws the individual away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life but eventually forces a confrontation with meaning itself. Can we exist if meaning doesn't exist? (more)



FerroFlowers - Steel, Neodymium, Ferromagnetic fluid, Aluminum - 2014 - Using ferromagnetic powder suspended in oil and magnets I created oddly industrial but organic flowers as the field lines from the magnets pull in and push out the fluid into ridges and spikes. Seeing the act of placing the fluid more intimately shows how strong and controlling the magnets are as they warp the fluid against gravity.