Artist creates amazing alien worlds using cream, other edibles

Photographer Navid Baraty tells Crave how he taps a scanner and common kitchen ingredients to make interstellar pictures that look like they were shot by a space telescope.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
3 min read

Instead of iron, magnesium and nickel, this Earth-like planet is made from half and half, water and food coloring. Navid Baraty

Astrophysicists have done a good job figuring out the various materials that make up the galaxy, but I'm pretty sure they haven't included Tums, half and half or cinnamon on their list. That hasn't stopped photographer Navid Baraty from creating stunning planets, stars and nebula from the stuff, however.

Baraty has created an imaginary spacecraft mission he calls Wander, which stands for Wormhole-Accelerated Nomad Delivering Reconnaissance. His invented craft, which has its own Facebook page, navigates vivid interstellar worlds he creates using ingredients found in most kitchens. You can see 10 of his amazing creations in the gallery below.

I asked Baraty just how he makes his stunning images and what prompted him to do so. Here's what he said.

What inspired you to start the Wander project?
I've had a fascination with space ever since I was a kid camping in the backyard and looking at the stars through my childhood telescope. When I look at the night sky, I'm captivated by its mystery and all of its unknowns waiting to be discovered by the next experiment or telescope. When I see the cosmos through photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and other earthly telescopes, I'm often left without words. I think the awe and wonder of space ignites our innate curiosity as humans.

How are the images created?
The images are made by placing the objects on an Epson photo scanner and then making a scan with the lid open. The planets and moons are made by scanning the bottoms of glasses containing the liquids. The liquids naturally create the shapes and swirls that you see in the images when they mix. The stars and other points of light are made by sprinkling spices and the other ingredients around the scanner glass. Like I mentioned, everything is scanned with the cover open to create the totally black backdrop of "space."

Creating gorgeous cosmic worlds from kitchen goods (pictures)

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Why frame these photos in the context of an imaginary mission?
I thought it would be fun and exciting to frame the project around the idea of this imaginary spacecraft roaming around the universe taking photos of its encounters. I had a whole story going for a while of how I was selected to be the lead image processor for the Wander mission since I'm a photographer but have a degree in engineering and that this was a real spacecraft out there taking images.

What's been the reaction to your work?
Quite a few people actually believed me and thought that the images were real. Eventually I decided to tell people the truth of how I really make the images and that Wander is entirely fictional.

What's the goal of this series?
I'd like people to look at these images and think, "Could this fictional creation of a planet or moon or galaxy actually exist somewhere in our universe or possibly even beyond?" I'd like for the imaginary explorations of Wander to inspire others about the cosmos and actual space exploration.

Will Wander continue its mission?
There will definitely be many more photos. There are many other celestial objects I'd like to try and create and would love to try doing some scans using layers of glass instead of a single sheet to see if that would create a further feeling of depth in the images. Lots more ideas to try... the project has really been a big experiment in progress.