This piece was created using a Voyager image of Jupiter’s moon Europa. The image was processed into layers by color, and each was cut from a sheet of matte or metallic paper. The surface of Europa is completely covered by water ice, providing the blue and cream colors in the piece. Europa is also covered by a global network of tectonic fractures, which are copper colored due to the rain of sulfuric acid that is deposited on the surface from the nearby volcanic moon Io. Underneath the ice, a global ocean resides.

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This one was a little tricky. I had already smoothed out my system for making pieces with topography data, but we don’t have that data for Europa. NASA is sending an orbiter mission there soon, to launch in 2024 I think, but until then most of the images we have are from the Voyager and Galileo missions. My postdoc advisor worked with Galileo images of Europa and is a part of the Europa Clipper mission team. She got me into researching icy satellite surfaces, and is an all-around awesome person. I made this piece for her as a gift when my postdoc was over.

I really wanted to capture the fracture network on the surface, so tried processing the image by color. This proved really challenging in Matlab- it’s possible I’m sure, but in the end Photoshop has better algorithms than me. I then ran the processed image through Matlab to slice it into layers based on color. My technique is good for holes, not hills, so I had to invert the all of the images to capture the fractures. Even with the color processing in photoshop, I had to edit a few of the layers in Illustrator after to remove messy fragments that wouldn’t cut well. I don’t normally do this since it is time consuming, but since this piece only has 11 layers it wasn’t so bad.

I chose papers that best matched the average color of each layer. Blue, blue-green, and cream for the ice, copper for the ruddy fractures. In spite of only having 11 layers, this piece is still very time consuming to cut. I have to slow the blade way down to capture the detail without tearing the paper. The most time consuming part is removing the paper from the sticky mat and clearing out all the tiny scraps. I have to do quite a bit of manual clean up with an x-acto knife to make sure everything looks neat. Overall, I love the piece, it turned out to be one of my favorites. It’s a little less data-driven than some of the others, but the colors really pop!