It's a faithful, NASA-guided model of our solar system's burning star (just 100 million times smaller).

Rejoice, Britons who haven't seen daylight in ages and who are slowly weakening into rubbery schlumps for want of Vitamin D: Your country now has slightly more light, thanks to a blazing artificial sun made from the "world’s largest spherical balloon."

The 46-foot-wide ersatz star floats above a square in Durham, in the northeast, as part of a celebration of light art called Lumiere. It portrays a strikingly accurate representation of the Sun's plasma-storm-scarred surface, only at a scale that's 100 million times smaller. Canadian techno-artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer whipped the thing together by first forcing a gravitational collapse inside a molecular cloud, and then having the matter condense into a heavy ball ... wait, no, he actually filled a orbicular blimp with helium and animated it with five projectors fed with the latest NASA information. (It's quite a bit more sophisticated than that artificial Moon planned for Brooklyn.)

The artist writes:

The solar animation on the balloon is generated by live mathematical equations that simulate the turbulence, flares and sunspots that can be seen on the surface of the Sun. This produces a constantly changing display that never repeats itself, giving viewers a glimpse of the majestic phenomena that are observable at the solar surface and that only relatively recent advances in astronomy have discovered. The project uses the latest SOHO and SDO solar observatory imaging available from NASA, overlaid with live animations derived from Navier-Stokes, reaction diffusion, perlin, particle systems and fractal flame equations.

As if that wasn't cool enough, there's an app you can download that lets you spawn different patterns in the fiery atmosphere. (You might have to be in Durham, though.) Check out this fantastic screenshot – watch out, our planet is about to crash into the Sun!

And a few more photos from the past few days (don't worry, this Sun you actually can look straight into):

Before it was ignited:

This is footage from an earlier appearance in Australia:

"Solar Equation" (2010) by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer from bitforms gallery on Vimeo.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a WeWork office building
    Life

    What WeWork’s Demise Could Do to NYC Real Estate

    The troubled coworking company is the largest office tenant in New York City. What happens to the city’s commercial real estate market if it goes under?

  2. A man walks under elevated roads.
    Perspective

    Why Do Micromobility Advocates Have Tiny-Demand Syndrome?

    In the 1930s big auto dreamed up freeways and demanded massive car infrastructure. Micromobility needs its own Futurama—one where cars are marginalized.

  3. A Chicago police car.
    Equity

    The Great Crime Decline Is Over in Some Chicago Neighborhoods

    Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods saw a crime decline, but recently, their violent crime rates have rebounded while other areas continue to improve.

  4. a photo of Candi CdeBaca
    Life

    The Rise of the Democratic Socialist City Council

    Members of the Democratic Socialists of America have been elected to local office on platforms that reject capitalism and promote working-class interests.

  5. a photo of cyclists riding beside a streetcar in the Mid Market neighborhood in San Francisco, California.
    Transportation

    San Francisco’s Busiest Street Is Going Car-Free

    A just-approved plan will redesign Market Street to favor bikes, pedestrians, and public transit vehicles. But the vote to ban private cars didn’t happen overnight.

×