Johnston's Archive

Space Art

All images copyright © 2001-2015 by Wm. Robert Johnston, unless otherwise indicated.

This page includes some of my first experiments in CGI space art, primarily using POV-Ray 3.1. Please note the credits for cylindrical maps, models, etc.: my feeble efforts here have been possible because far more talented people shared their work. I have also included some links for those seeking to learn to learn more about CGI space art.

The Sun and Mercury

The Earth

The Moon

New! Return to the Moon (part 1)

New! Return to the Moon (part 2)








New! Pluto

New! Skylab

Fictional planets

Fictional spacecraft

Here are some terrestrial scenes produced with Terragen:
Imaginary places

Real places

Here are some wallpaper versions of a few images.

My space art has made the covers of two books and the posters for an international planetary science conference!

Links: The following sites represent far greater talent applied to computer-generated space art or to planetary mapping. Some of these individuals have made some material (such as cylindrical maps) available for private use. Please observe the copyright and usage restrictions for each site! These people and organizations deserve credit for their work. (Links are alphabetized by author.)


Some cylindrical planetary maps: These are maps I have modified from public domain or shared data. Currently there are 24 maps, including the Sun, 4 planets, 2 asteroids, and 8 satellites. (And yes, this counts Pluto as a planet, as it should be!)

An index of cylindrical maps available on the Internet: while this is definitely not complete, it does identify 350 maps (including multiple versions of maps in different sizes). This lists links to maps (of some sort or another) for 9 planets, 28 satellites, 7 asteroids, and 1 comet (Note: this list is unfortunately quite out of date...).

An index of shape models available on the Internet: so far I know of models for 8 planetary satellites and 12 asteroids. (Shape models have been determined for additional objects, but I've not seen them released.) Those familiar with POV-Ray will notice that the sample renderings I have made do not utilize the "smooth mesh" command; I hope to fix this in the future.

Comments: I have attempted in creating these images to produce scientifically accurate representations, so let me point out what's right and what's not. The shapes, orientations, apparent sizes of the planets and moons, and sunlight directions are accurate for the views described. Bj÷rn Jˇnsson's site includes discussion of correct orientation of planetary satellites.

My images do not show stars because I not happy so far with my attempts to show stars. Conveniently, though, a person would not be able to see stars in many of the views depicted. While views with stars are more aesthetically pleasing, a person whose eyes are adapted to see bright planets and moons in the foreground generally won't be able to see stars. (The same is true for cameras, which is why stars are not visible in most pictures from space probes and from astronauts in Earth orbit or on the Moon.)

I have tried to be faithful with colors, contrast levels, and relative brightness of various bodies, but these elements are less reliable. In colors, for example, the planetary maps I have used have more accurate colors than some available, but it is still not clear how well many of NASA's released images correspond to the color sensitivity of the human eye.


While the resources listed above provided both inspiration and source material, I particularly acknowledge Bj÷rn Jˇnsson for correcting some errors and sharing via his web site, Space-Graphics for maps and helpful comments. Again, the bulk of the credit is due to those that have processed these maps; any mistakes are my own.

Banner image: View of Mars--if it had oceans (© 2003 by Wm. Robert Johnston).

Comments? Questions? Corrections? Contact me.

Copyright © 2001-2010, 2015 by Wm. Robert Johnston. All rights reserved.
Last modified 15 August 2015.
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