Photographs of Common Objects That Look Like Planets

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
March 9 2013 8:00 AM

The Everyday Solar System Challenge

Simon Wright is a graphic designer in Australia*. He decided he needed to challenge himself to give his brain a workout, so he created what he calls his “Solar System Challenge”: without using Photoshop or any additional after-effects (with the exception of Instagram), create a set of pictures of everyday objects that look like the planets in the solar system.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

The results are pretty cool:

Solar system challenge
Simon Wright took pictures of everyday objects that look like the Sun and planets. Can you figure out what they are? Click to embiggen.

Image credit: Simon Wright

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If you go to his Facebook page where he has those shots, you can see them in more detail. Click on each one to get an explanation of what it is and which planet it is. I tried to guess how he did each one before reading the description; the closest I came was for Earth, but even then I was way off.

Simon Wright photo of an object that looks like the Sun
The Sun...or is it?

Image credit: Simon Wright

My favorite is the picture for the Sun. I won’t spoil it, but I never ever would have guessed how he did it, but when I read the description I laughed. Funny how obvious something is after you already know the answer. Also, these photos remind me of Christopher Jonassen’s photo series “Devour”, where the bottoms of well-used cooking pans look very much like fanciful alien worlds. That’s well worth your time to click through.

I like Wright’s gumption. We all need to challenge ourselves sometimes, whether it’s to get us out of a rut, inspire new ways of thinking and seeing, or simply as a fun exercise to see what happens. I did that myself last year when I decided to write a single, short astronomy fact every day for a whole year. I called them BAFacts, and it was fun, if surprisingly difficult work. The entire archive is online if you want to peruse them. But there’s nothing like a deadline and a self-promise to get work done and your brain popped into gear.

What will you do to challenge yourself today?

*Correction, March 9, 2013: The post originally implied that Simon Wright worked for Hub Creative. He does not.

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