SCU's digital media artist Associate Professor Grayson Cooke caught NASA's attention through his creative use of image data from the space agency's Landsat 8 satellite.
SCU's digital media artist Associate Professor Grayson Cooke caught NASA's attention through his creative use of image data from the space agency's Landsat 8 satellite. John Waddell

What did a professor do to attract the attention of NASA?

AN Associate Professor from Southern Cross University has attracted the interest of NASA for his art-science video project called 'Open Air'.

The video explores how time and elemental forces work together to shape the earth.

Open Air creatively uses image data from the space agency's Landsat 8 satellite. Pictured Cooper Creek.
Still image from 'Open Air', showing satellite imagery of Cooper Creek, QLD.

Digital media artist Associate Professor Grayson Cooke caught NASA's attention through his creative use of image data from the space agency's Landsat 8 satellite.

Open Air juxtaposes this satellite imagery of Australia while panning across close-up aerial views of landscape paintings by Emma Walker, all set to the sound scape by Australian band The Necks.

"It's not every day you receive an email from NASA, so I have to admit I was rather excited and flattered when I saw that the NASA Landsat team had discovered my project and wanted to do an interview,” Prof Cooke said.

Open Air creatively uses image data from the space agency's Landsat 8 satellite. Pictured Diamantina Queenland.
Still image from 'Open Air', showing satellite imagery of Diamantina, QLD.

The video project came about from a partnership Prof Cooke developed with Geoscience Australia - the Canberra-based public sector agency dedicated to research into Australia's geology and geography.

He initially contacted them to learn more about 'Digital Earth Australia', a program which makes 40 years of Australian Landsat satellite data accessible to researchers to track environmental change over time.

"I had been dreaming of time-lapsing Australia using satellite imaging for quite some time but found it wasn't technically feasible with the tools available to me as a non-expert,” Prof Cooke said.

"Approaching Geoscience Australia bridged that technical gap, as I gained access to the data via the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI).

"In turn this data actually comes from NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), who since 2008 have made the Landsat data archive freely available. (It) seems to me to be an inestimable service to the world, and the research community in particular.”

Open Air creatively uses image data from the space agency's Landsat 8 satellite. Pictured Lake Gairdner South Australia.
Still image from 'Open Air', showing satellite imagery of Lake Gairdner, SA.

Landsat is the longest continuous global record of the earth's surface and since the early 1970s it has continuously and consistently archived images of Earth.

This unparalleled data archive gives scientists the ability to assess changes in Earth's landscape.

"But it's not only scientists who are inspired by these images,” said Professor Cooke.

"As Open Air demonstrates, it gives artists - in this case, a digital media artist, a painter and musicians - the ability to produce new methods of responding to earth in both intellectual and emotional ways.”

Professor Cooke plans to release the full feature-length work later in 2018.