Earthrise as a Stained Glass Window

A few weeks ago I made a virtual mosaic, inspired by the famous Earthrise photograph, one of the iconic images of the twentieth century, which has had a huge impact on the way we think about our planet.

Lonely This Christmas

The Apollo 8 astronauts astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders were incredible far from home over Christmas 1968. If the phrase to boldly go where no one has gone before has ever been appropriate, it was in this case.

Never before had anyone traveled beyond Earth orbit, which is in fact only a few hundred kilometers from the planet. These three men were suddenly 300,000 km away in space. And there they saw their colorful home world in the endless black void , rising above the gray and desolate landscape of the Moon:

When I put my interpretation of that event on Facebook and Twitter, I received favorable responses. But when someone remarked that Earthrise would also look good as a stained-glass window, spontaneously all kinds of programs started working in my head.

Instant Art

How to make a virtual stained-glass window? One possibility is, of course, Photoshop. That program even has a “stained glass button” that can turn any photo into a church window. Earthrise would look something like this:

Quick adaptation in Photoshop of the Earthrise photo using the stained glass filter

Great fun, of course, such a piece of instant art, but it has its limitations. The only things you can control are the size (and number) of the glass surfaces and the thickness of the frames. But you don’t have any influence on the shapes of the glass. Photoshop simply creates a random pattern of pentagons and hexagons.


Finally I enlisted the help of Autodesk and I made the virtual window in two programs that are in fact not really made to do such a thing: AutoCAD and 3ds Max. This is a screenshot from Autocad:

Work in progress: screenshot from Autocad with the Earthrise stained glass window under construction


All those colors were a tool to distribute different types of glass in a nice way across the window. In total I used 27 types of glass; twelve for the Moon, twelve for space, and three for the Earth. However for the Earth I also applied many different colors. Moon and space are less colorful but still have all sorts of shades and patterns. Because only gray and black glass in a stained glass window, that looks a bit boring.

In total, the window contains no less than 3276 pieces of glass:

Virtual stained glass window inspired by the famous Earthrise photo of the Earth above the desolate landscape of the Moon in the vast emptiness of space

Line patterns

Beside the colors, also the lines are important when designing a stained-glass window. In the globe, one can recognize meridians, tropics and polar circles. Space holds a five-pointed star shape. In the Moonscape, the foreground of the original photo, horizontal lines play a more important role. And certain lines run from the Moon into space and from space into Earth, to symbolize that they’re actually not separate elements but parts of a larger whole.

And indeed, all the continents on the same side of the planet. after all, it’s an interpretation of reality.


How all the patterns and colors of the glass work together can be appreciated best by taking a closer look. Here we see the Southern Hemisphere and the Antarctic over the mountains of the Moon:

Fragment of the Earthrise stained glass window with a piece of the southern hemisphere above the mountains of the Moon


To conclude, here’s one more close-up. The attentive reader will recognize, from right to left, Europe and Africa, the Atlantic Ocean and North America. Looking through the eyelashes one may notice details such as Greenland, the Mediterranean, and perhaps the British Isles. The Netherlands, country where this piece was created, fades away on this scale. That puts things, once again, in perspective.

Close-up of the Earthrise stained glass window showing a piece of the globe with Europe, the Atlantic and North America

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