Cool ‘Sketchnote’ Infographic Explains NASA’s Orion EFT-1 Flight in Detail

A sketchnote-style infographic created in honor of the EFT-1 test flight for the Orion capsule. Credit and copyright: Gary Schroeder.

For many of us, it’s easier to comprehend complex processes when they are expressed visually. That was the impetus for artist Gary Schroeder in creating this wonderful hand-sketched infographic for NASA’s Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) for the Orion spacecraft.

“Being very interested in the follow-on program to the Shuttle, I wanted to pay close attention to exactly what was going to happen during the Orion launch from liftoff to splashdown,” Schroeder told Universe Today. “Drawing on my experience in sketchnoting (the practice of taking notes using both words and drawings), I thought an infographic-style sketchnote of EFT-1 would be fun to make. I made one study sketch in the morning based on some quick internet research, let it percolate in my head during the day, and came home after work to render a final version.”

Schroeder created the original artwork in pencil, then scanned it and colorized it in Photoshop.

He uploaded it to Flickr just yesterday and it already has nearly 14,000 views. “It’s been exciting for me to see so much interest in this drawing,” he said.

This just proves that sometimes a little bit of ‘throwback’ goes great with technology!

See more of Schroeder’s work on his Flickr page.

More about the Orion EFT-1 mission; the launch was scrubbed for today, but rescheduled for Dec. 5 starting at 7:05 am EST.

Updated! Zoomable Poster Now Shows Off 54 Years Of Space Exploration

Cosmic Journey by Sean McNaughton, Samuel Velasco, 5W Infographics, Matthew Twombly and Jane Vessels, NGM staff, Amanda Hobbs.

We humans are busy creatures when it comes to exploring the solar system. This new graphic (which updates one from four years ago) showcases all the planets we have visited in the past half-century. Both successful missions and failures are included on this updated list, although sadly you won’t find much about the various visits to comets and asteroids.

“The only downside to this spectacular map is the absence of orbits around minor bodies,” wrote Franck Marchis, a researcher at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute, in a blog post describing the graphic — which he often uses in public talks.

“Samuel Velasco, one of its creators, told me me that missions to asteroids and comets were not included because the graphic was getting too difficult to read. Tough choices had to be made.”

Other features of the graphic worth noting are the growing number of moon and Mars missions and the current locations of spacecraft in the outer solar system (or in Voyager 1’s case, beyond the solar system).

Explore the full resolution version by clicking on the lead image or here.

An Illustrative Explanation Of Our Solar System

The Solar System: Our Home in Space (screenshot) © Philipp Dettmer Information Design

The Solar System: it’s our home in space, the neighborhood that we all grew up in and where — unless we figure out a way to get somewhere else — all of our kids and grandkids and great-great-great-great-times-infinity-great-grandkids will grow up too. That is, of course, until the Sun swells up and roasts Earth and all the other inner planets to a dry crunchy crisp before going into a multi-billion year retirement as a white dwarf.

But until then it’s a pretty nice place to call home, if I may say so myself.

Edu-film designer Philipp Dettmer and his team have put together a wonderful little animation explaining the basic structure of the Solar System using bright, colorful graphics and simple shapes to illustrate the key points of our cosmic neighborhood. It won’t teach you everything you’ll ever need to know about the planets and it’s not advisable to use it as a navigation guide, but it is fun to watch and well-constructed, with nice animation by Stephan Rether and narration by Steve Taylor.

Check out the full video below:

“Through information design, concepts can be made easy and accessible when presented in a short, understandable edu-film or perhaps an infographic. Whether explaining the vastness of the universe or the tiniest building blocks of life – all information can be presented in a way that everyone understands. Regardless of prior knowledge.”
– Philipp Dettmer

(And come on, admit it… you learned something new from this!)

Credit: Philipp Dettmer Information Design. HT to Colin Lecher at Salon.

How Big Are Galaxies?

Galaxy size comparison chart by astrophysicist Rhys Taylor

I’m going to refrain from the initial response that comes to mind… actually, no I won’t — they’re really, really, really big!!!!

</Kermit arms>

Ok, now that that’s out of the way check out this graphic by Arecibo astrophysicist Rhys Taylor, which neatly illustrates the relative sizes of 25 selected galaxies using images made from NASA and ESA observation missions… including a rendering of our own surprisingly mundane Milky Way at the center for comparison. (Warning: this chart may adversely affect any feelings of bigness you may have once held dear.) According to Taylor on his personal blog, Physicists of the Caribbean (because he works had worked at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico) “Type in ‘asteroid sizes’ into Google and you’ll quickly find a bunch of  images comparing various asteroids, putting them all next to each at the same scale. The same goes for planets and stars. Yet the results for galaxies are useless. Not only do you not get any size comparisons, but scroll down even just a page and you get images of smartphones, for crying out loud.” So to remedy that marked dearth of galactic comparisons, Taylor made his own. Which, if you share my personal aesthetics, you’ll agree is quite nicely done.

“I tried to get a nice selection of well-known, interesting objects,” Taylor explains. “I was also a little limited in that I needed high-resolution images which completely mapped the full extent of each object… still, I think the final selection has a decent mix, and I reckon it was a productive use of a Saturday.” And even with the dramatic comparisons above, Taylor wasn’t able to accurately portray to scale one of the biggest — if not the biggest — galaxies in the observable universe: IC 1101.

For an idea of how we measure up to that behemoth, he made this graphic:

Galaxy sizes including IC 1101, the largest-known galaxy. Click for a zoomable version. (Credit: Rhys Taylor)
Galaxy sizes including IC 1101, the largest-known galaxy. Click for a zoomable version. (Credit: Rhys Taylor)

That big bright blur in the center? That’s IC 1101, the largest known galaxy — in this instance created by scaling up an image of M87, another supersized elliptical galaxy that just happens to be considerably closer to our own (and thus has had clearer images taken of it.) But the size is right — IC 1101 is gargantuan.

At an estimated 5.5 million light-years wide, over 50 Milky Ways could fit across it! And considering it takes our Solar System about 225 million years to complete a single revolution around the Milky Way… well… yeah. Galaxies are big. Really, really, reallyreally big!

</Kermit arms>

Now if you’ll pardon me, I need to go stop my head from spinning… Read this and more on Rhys Taylor’s blog here, and add Rhys to your awesome astronomy Google+ circles here. And you can find out more about IC 1101 in the video below from Tony Darnell, aka DeepAstronomy:

The Cost of Exploring Space: Film vs. Reality

We all know that space exploration, while certainly not the largest expenditure of most countries, doesn’t come cheap. But neither do big-budget science fiction films, either. Special effects, sets, special effects, popular acting talent… special effects… those all come with hefty price tags that make sci-fi and fantasy films costly ventures — although bigger definitely isn’t always better. If you were to compare the price of real space exploration missions (which provide actual information) to the costs of movies about space exploration (which provide “only” entertainment) what would you expect to find?

This infographic does just that:


“Prometheus’ movie budget would be enough to keep the search for real aliens going for another 52 years.”

Wow. (Maybe they should have just written a check to SETI.)

Infographic provided by Neo Mammalian Studios and U.S.S. Enterprise © CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.