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CIB After Dark: Out of this World

The first CIB After Dark event allowed visitors to experience astronomy and astronomical technology through star charts, planetary projections, space food, and more

News and events Mar 10, 2023

The Cyberinfrastructure Building (CIB) on the Bloomington campus was transformed last Thursday evening for the inaugural CIB After Dark event. The theme for the event was “Out of this World,” and visitors could experience astronomy and astronomical technology in the CIB’s lobby and Wrubel Commons area through star charts, planetary projections, and space food. 

Presented by the UITS Research Technologies Advanced Visualization and Data Labs, the event series aims to connect with larger IU and general communities by showcasing the capability of the technology, tools, and platforms IU Visual & Data Labs has to offer. One of the most visually striking—and immersive—aspects of the night was the Science on a Sphere (SOS). Designed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the SOS has been a staple of the CIB for years, projecting a variety of data on a 6-foot sphere suspended in the CIB lobby.  

During the event, the sphere was illuminated with images of celestial bodies from the eight planets to everybody’s favorite dwarf planet, Pluto. The sphere displayed the various planets’ rotations in relation to the Earth’s as well as thermal imaging of individual planets like Mercury to highlight the planet’s topography. Attendees were also treated to a planet-by-planet presentation by David Reagan, a systems programmer and analyst at the Advanced Visualization Lab. 

“We’re really lucky we had so many wonderful people contributing their expertise to the event,” Keith Danielson, manager of the Advance Media Lab said. “We were really proud of the turnout and are excited to bring more to our community.” 

Additionally, a screen was installed near the CIB’s entrance, displaying a variety of space suit designs from the sleek and modern SpaceX to the classic Apollo 11 to the comical Lunar Exploration Suit proposed by the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation in 1960. The display highlighted scientific and aerospace engineering through the ages. The screen also featured various fictional space suits—including ones worn by Matt Damon in The Martian, Leonard Nimoy in season 3 episode 9 “The Tholian Web” of the original Star Trek series, and Star Wars’ Boba Fett. Seeing the variety of costumes—one after the other—exemplifies not only how space has captured our imaginations for decades, but how current science influences fictionalized portrayals.  

In the Wrubel Commons, Shawn Slavin, a research software developer at the Advanced Visualization Lab, gave a presentation on the history of astronomy and how different cultures used the stars, such as timekeeping, storytelling, and navigation. Slavin used the Crystal Display Wall to display maps, star charts, and more. During the presentation, attendees were able to enjoy a buffet of “space food,” featuring Food-in-a-Tube in four flavors—French fry, chicken nugget, Sicilian pizza, and Texas Hamburger—mint chocolate chip and cookies & cream astronaut ice cream, and orange Tang, an American drink mix that has been closely associated with the space program since it was used on John Glenn’s Mercury flight in February 1962.  

“I believe this CIB After Dark series will be an opportunity to truly showcase IU’s remarkable visualization display technologies such as the Crystal Wall and Science on a Sphere as well as highlight the innovative workflows and pioneering results generated by the expert teams in the UITS Research Technologies Visual and Data Labs.” Scott Birch, manager at the Advanced Visualization Lab, said. “I also think we can have a lot of fun at the same time, and I would encourage the entire IU community to participate. When the sun goes down, the lights go on, and those are a sight to behold!” 

The next CIB After Dark event is scheduled for April 27 with a theme of “Places and Spaces” led by IU3D. For more information, visit the IU events calendar. 

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