These Incredible Images of Alien Worlds are Actually Miniatures

Have you heard of Adam Makarenko? No?

Adam is an artist who makes physical models of exoplanets then creates elaborate photo shoots of them. Adam is our new favorite Instagram feed at Universe Today, and he even took over the UT Instagram feed recently.

Adam is a graduate of Film School at Confederation College. After school, he worked in various roles including video production. He was hungering for some creative projects, and in the mid-2000’s he began making miniatures and photographing them.

At first, he made miniatures of bees and apiaries and entered them in some contests, which he won. That’s where things started to take off for Adam. “This really gave me a boost with my career, and opened up a lot of doors. I was able to quit my day job,” Adam told Universe Today.

“Proto Bees” by Adam Makarenko. Copyright Adam Makarenko.

“I’ve always been interested in science, and things that are mysterious.”

Adam Makarenko.

Then Adam started working as a Director of Photography on short films, videos, and documentaries. Adam’s interest in science led him to explore other miniature work, including the environment and space. “I’ve always been interested in science, and things that are mysterious,” Adam told us.

Four unnamed exoplanets by Adam Makarenko. Image Copyright Adam Makarenko.

Adam says that his pieces can take anywhere from a single day to a month or two to complete. It all depends on the scope and the scale of the work. It’s a delicate process to conceive and then create these pieces.

“View from a Volcanic Moon” by Adam Makarenko. Adam says this is one of his favorite pieces partly because the scale is so large. Image Copyright: Adam Makarenko.

“I spend a lot of time thinking/brooding, because what happens is if you make a mistake you might have to start all over again and that could be many wasted days,” Adam told Universe Today. “That is always the fear, so pre-planning is essential.”

“Often things don’t turn out, because everything I do is literally an experiment.”

Adam Makarenko

He doesn’t have a favorite, but he is fond of his piece “View from a Volcanic Moon.” At 9′ x 9′ it’s one of his larger pieces. Adam took a couple months to complete this beauty.

“I was definitely happy to see that one turn out. Often things don’t turn out, because everything I do is literally an experiment. There are no how-to-books on this kind of work, and I often have to adapt techniques from all kinds of art disciplines to make something work,” Adam told Universe Today.

Three of Adam’s 700, and soon to be 1000, exoplanet miniatures. Image Copyright: Adam Makarenko.

Right now Adam is in the middle of a project to create 1,000 exoplanet miniatures. “I am driven to do this work on my own at least until I reach 1000 planets, but I could easily go beyond that too. Its been a long road, but I am at about 700 now.”

Adam is working to complete 1,000 miniature exoplanets and is currently up to about 700. Image Copyright: Adam Makarenko.

During 2018, Adam worked with the Keck Observatory on a project called the Exoplanet Imaginarium. He created models of 12 exoplanets to help people visualize some of the exoplanets being discovered. “On these projects I also worked with the scientists to get the image close to what they envisioned.” said Adam.   

Adam’s Gliese 876b from the Keck Observatory’s Exoplanet Imaginarium. It’s the first exoplanet discovered by the Keck Observatory. Image Credit: Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko.

“In the future I really want to work with NASA and people from TESS, or any other exoplanet based observatories.”

Adam Makarenko

In the future Adam hopes to do more collaborative work with space agencies and observatories. “In the future I really want to work with NASA and people from TESS, or any other exoplanet based observatories. It’s obviously very tough to get in with them, but I’ve been in touch with some people there… so I am crossing my fingers,” he told us. 

Adam Makarenko inspecting one of his sets in his studio. Image Copyright: Adam Makarenko.

Adam won an award for American Photo of the Year for his work with miniature bees. He also won the Magenta award for his work. He’s also received grants in support of his work from the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council.

This is just a small sample of Adam’s work. You can see much more at his website You can also check out his Instagram feed at Adam has also made a 2020 calendar of 12 exoplanets.


Evan Gough

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