Category: Space art

I beg your pardon? The end of history? Perhaps history has just begun. If we take care to not mess up things on our own planet, there is a universe waiting for us.

I sometimes think that my fascination with space and astronomy are related to the fact I saw the Apollo 11 moon landing as a seven-year-old. On the other hand, Arthur C. Clarke, Carl Sagan and Brian Cox at that time were respectively 51, 34 and 1 years old, so maybe age does not matter that much.

Anyway, the final frontier, has always had my warm interest. In the past I have made work for organizations such as The Mars Society and Explore Mars. With my own collection of Space Art I carefully follow in the footsteps of legends like Chesley Bonestell, Pat Rawlings and Don Dixon.

Digitally generated satellite image of the Earth, with Europe, and more specifically the Netherlands, in the center

Is There Really No Planet B?

It’s a popular theme in science fiction: the quest for a new Earth, because the old one is becoming uninhabitable, usually due to human interventions. Sometimes the idea is elaborated in a somewhat ironic manner, like in the unsurpassed Dutch series Missie Aarde (Mission Earth), in which the Netherlands take the lead because it’s the only country not under water thanks to its dykes. Sometimes it’s dead serious, as in the movie Interstellar, in which drought, dust storms and crop failures make the need for a new world urgent. Spare world When you realize how much effort it takes to… Read More

Impressionist sketch of a fictional abbey on the dark side of one of the planets around the ultra cool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1

TRAPPIST-1: the Link between Astronomy and Beer

Today we will travel to 2MASS J23062928-0502285, better known as TRAPPIST-1, a star at about 40.5 light years from Earth. That would normally be quite a long journey; even light takes more than four decades to get there. But in our imagination we’re there in the blink of an eye. Ultra-cool TRAPPIST-1 is a so-called ultra-cool red dwarf star, which made the news in 2017 because Belgian astronomers discovered seven Earth-like planets in orbit around it. The terms ultra-cool and Earth-like should not be taken too literally; anything below 2700 degrees Kelvin (more than 2400 degrees Celsius) is considered ultra-cool… Read More

Thirteen pieces of space art by Frans Blok, framed and ready for an exhibition

World Maps and Space Art Exhibited

Over a year ago, I was asked if I wanted to have an exhibition of my work in the entrance hall of the RIVM, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven. At that time, I had only a vague idea of the existence of that institute. But then first the emissions of nitrogen by agriculture and industry created a kind of national crisis in which the institute played a pivotal role. And after that the covid-19 pandemic came upon us. By now, there is probably nobody in the country who has never heard of RIVM.… Read More

Artist impression of the planet Venus in a remote future after terraforming, with oceans and continents, cloud patterns and an impressive ring system

The Rings of Venus

The closest planet in our solar system, Venus, looks suspiciously like Earth, at first glance. With a diameter of 12,104 kilometers, Venus is only a few percent smaller than Earth (12,757 kilometers). Gravity is also only a fraction less: 0.9 g. That similarity is very striking when you consider that the planets orbiting our sun vary enormously in size, from the dwarf Mercury to the giant Jupiter. As a child I was fascinated by this twin sister of the Earth. I even drew a map, not based on any scientific knowledge, with seas, continents, mountain ranges and wave currents. The… Read More

The Ares, the spaceship on which the First Hundred travelled to Mars in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, arrives in orbit around the Red Planet

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy is one of the highlights of American science fiction, as far as I’m concerned. Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars were published between 1992 and 1996 and tell the future history of our neighboring planet over a period of almost two hundred years. In those two centuries, Mars is fully terraformed: transformed from a cold, dry, lifeless desert into a living world with seas, forests and cities. Not all main characters are happy with those changes: the battle between the Reds, who prefer to keep Mars as it is and the Greens, for whom… Read More

Artist impression of the "Belgian" planet Nervia, portrayed as a gas giant in the black, yellow and red of the national flag, with some moons, a ring and the star Neburonia

The Chronicles of Nervia

A few weeks ago I made an artist impression of the “Dutch” planet Nachtwacht as a red, white and blue, Jupiter-like gas giant. But such a planetary image in the national colors can of course be made for our southern neighbors as well. After all, also Belgium has recently acquired a piece of real estate in the Milky Way galaxy, as part of the NameExoWorlds project of the International Astronomical Union. Gaul The name the Belgians have given to “their” planet sounds a lot more euphonious than the guttural Dutch Nachtwacht: Nervia. Well, of course the name had to be… Read More

Artist impression of the planet Nachtwacht (Night Watch), a red, white and blue gas giant, with two of ots moons as well as parent star Sterrennacht (Starry Night)

Holland in the Sky: Night Watch and Starry Night

Since December 17, 2019, the Netherlands has two new far outposts: the planet Night Watch and the star Starry Night. The IAU, the International Astronomical Union, asked us to come up with a name for those two celestial bodies, which were previously known under the somewhat boring character combinations HAT-P-6 and HAT-P-6b. The inhabitants of the 111 other countries affiliated with the IAU were also assigned a cosmic duo, as part of the NameExoWorlds campaign. Rembrandt and Van Gogh Out of 6,000 suggestions submitted by the public, the national jury chose a shortlist of five name twins, of which Nijntje… Read More

Artist impression of the ESA probe Huygens, landing on Titan, largest moon of the planet Saturn, in january 2005

Space Quotes

This collection of space quotes, cosmic wisecracks and universal oneliners was originally tweeted from the, nowadays pretty dormant, Modified Mars Twitteraccount. I felt they deserved a more permanent location; after all, colonizing the Galaxy is a long term project. Some of these quotes are funny, others are dead serious; occasionally they’re both. They all are, sometimes very obvious, in other cases rather remotely, linked to themes like Mars, spaceflight, astronomy or the universe in general. And since I call this an image blog, I illustrate this page with some space art I’ve produced over the years. “We are all in the… Read More

The Dry Earth: Reversed Terraforming

After terraforming Mars quite a few times, I’ve now done the reverse thing: martifying Earth. What would our planet look like if all the water suddenly disappeared? Like a Pale Yellow Dot, a kind of cross-over between the Moon and Mars. Warming-up No, this is not a warning about the effects of global warming. Those are worrying enough, but in the short term they mainly mean that we have to deal with more instead of less water. Speculation On the other hand: sometimes planets lose a lot of water in the course of their existence. Mars, for example, once had… Read More

The planets Earth and Mars represented by two beach balls in the sand, on the right scale ratio to each other.

Two planets on the beach

Among the general public, there’s remarkably little awareness of the solar system, our immediate environment, our neighbourhood. Many people simply don’t know the difference between the solar system, the galaxy and the universe. Even Dutch national quality newspaper the Volkskrant once wrote that Jupiter is the largest planet in the universe (I’ll never forgive them). Naming the eight planets in the right order is a basic skill that few people posses. Knowledge about the size and mutual distances of these celestial bodies is also very limited. Beach balls For some reason, many people think that Mars is bigger than the… Read More