Martian Nyan Cat

Posted on Wed 25 June 2014 in astronomy

Today I participated in the Hack Day at the UK National Astronomy Meeting in Portsmouth. Apart from working on a few silly side projects, my colleagues Jeremy Harwood, Leigh Smith, and I decided to produce a video which might well change the face of astronomy outreach and visualisation forever.

The video below demonstrates how astronomers may be able to use Nyan Cat, a popular figure beloved by younger generations across the world, as a novel tool for astronomy outreach and education:

In the video, our rainbow-tailed friend can be seen to fly across the surface of Mars. The background images shown are actual observations obtained by the HRSC camera on board the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft.

The data was obtained from ESA's Planetary Science Archive. At the frame rate shown, our feline friend would take nearly 2 days to fly across all the observations. We hope to produce such a full-length video in the near future. We believe that a video containing ALL the data, with or without an airborne mammal on top, can serve as a genuinely useful visualisation to give people a feel for the wealth and nature of data in an archive. Looking at data is always useful!

The code used to prepare the video is on GitHub. Please don't tell the instrument PI we did this.