A spiral top with LEDs produces beautiful patterns in micro-g

Via Universe Today comes a pointer to an interesting in-space microgravity art event carried out a few years ago in the Japanese Kibo module on the International Space Station : “Auroral Oval Spiral Top” Performed in Kibo:Experiment – International Space Station – JAXA

The “Auroral Oval Spiral Top”, which was proposed by Professor Takuro Osaka of the University of Tsukuba,  involves a “spinning top that has arms illuminating with LED linear light sources and point light sources. Various movements of the spinning top floating in microgravity show aurora-like light traces.”  The image below came from a “performance” on May 11, 2011.  Unfortunately, I can’t find a video of the event.

Photo: Aurora Oval Spiral Top

Aurora Oval Spiral Top

An earlier trial in 2009 used a simpler “spiral top”:

Spiral Top (performed in April 2009)

Spiral Top (performed in April 2009)

According to the JAXA page:

The project’s precursor mission “Spiral Top”, which was performed on April 30, 2009, was designed to produce light arts using a spinning top that has arms illuminating with LED point light sources. “Auroral Oval Spiral Top” was the second version and designed to produce aurora-like luminescence traces using a spinning top with both linear and point light sources. In microgravity, the center of gravity of the spinning top continuously and randomly moves while it is spinning. Using the characteristics of the top in microgravity, the project tries to produce various light arts using its unexpected movements/spins, by changing attaching locations of its arms and weights.

I hope that in a few years, the cost of putting people into space will drop to the point it will be possible for many artists and artisans to experience space and microgravity first hand. I expect there will be many amazing things they will come up with as they experiment with the effects that microgravity can produce.