2024 Faculty Choice Award – Katherine Lee

Good Morning Earth, From Outer Space


Digital Photo of a Painting


By emphasizing how water behaves in outer space, I wanted to express how the daily activities that happen on Earth, such as brushing our teeth are different in the International Space Station. In the ISS, water is a floating sphere acting in a zero-gravity environment when it is not interacting with another object or surface. Therefore I decided to paint water droplets, a toothbrush, and toothpaste over the window’s view of the earth, making the droplets reflect the earth we inhabit in a hyperrealistic way.

This piece, Good Morning Earth, From Outer Space, is an acrylic painting on canvas depicting how our day-to-day activities on Earth can be different under the effects of microgravity in space. In terms of artistic techniques, I wanted to utilize trompe-l’oeil to hyper-realistically depict crisp water droplets and the implications of brushing one’s teeth in comparison to the blurred reflection of Earth outside the window of the ISS. 

A while back ago when I was preparing for a Space Art Competition, I came across a video that documented the life of astronauts stationed at the International Space Station. Through this video, I learned that water behaves differently in microgravity compared to how it behaves on Earth due to the absence of gravity or the extremely weak gravitational pull in space. In microgravity environments, such as the International Space Station (ISS) or during space missions, the behavior of water can be fascinating and have several unique characteristics. 

First, water remains a spherical shape. In microgravity, water does not naturally flow into a typical droplet shape as it does on Earth, but tends to form spherical blobs. This is because surface tension becomes the dominant force, pulling the water molecules together to minimize their surface area, resulting in spherical water droplets floating in the air. 

Second, the surface tension of water is more pronounced in microgravity. This is the force that causes water to form spherical shapes and behave differently than on Earth. Surface tension also allows water to stick to surfaces, creating floating water droplets that remain sticky on various objects and even on the skin. In space, the air bubble doesn’t rise because it is no lighter than the water around it, also known as buoyancy. 

Third, in microgravity, water doesn’t fall or flow downwards as it does on Earth due to gravity; objects and astronauts in space are continuously “free falling” or in the state of falling. Instead, it can remain suspended in mid-air, creating globules of water that float freely.