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Stained Glass to Celebrate #UnfoldingTheUniverse

There's a particularly spectacular piece of art you may have seen in Emily's post from the JWST First Images unveiling at Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore (a.k.a. STScI, where the JWST Mission Operations Center is housed!) — this GORGEOUS stained glass piece by astronomers David Law and Nora Luetzgendorf.

Rainbow stained glass of the Webb mirror

Detail image of Webb Rising stained glass showing the art and artists' names

David, AURA Associate Astronomer and MIRI Instrument Scientist, and Nora, NIRSpec Instrument Scientist for ESA, worked together to bring this beautiful piece of science art to life. One of Nora's hobbies is graphic design, and David does stained glass, so he naturally thought of her when he considered creating a larger stained glass artwork in honor of JWST.

"I’ve always loved stained glass, and how the interplay of light and color can look so different through the course of a day," David says. "I’d made a smaller version of JWST for my office window already, and thought it would be fun to try something a little bigger. For such a big project I knew I wanted a really novel and stunning design, and since Nora does fantastic JWST-themed art it was a great chance for a collaboration. We’d actually done some work together on JWST related projects already as we’re both specialists in integral field spectroscopy."

The piece is called Webb Rising, since the mirror looks almost like a rising Sun. Nora created the design using tessellations, a way of filling in a surface with geometric shapes. This is actually quite similar to one of the ways she looks at data from JWST, which she describes as a cool experience — seeing the overlap between her art and her science! 

David agrees, explaining the design further: "One of the main things that I’m interested in seeing from JWST is all of the spectroscopy that it’ll be able to do, and having the rainbow coloration reminds me of the spectra that JWST will take. Around the outside edge it shows the various kinds of things that Webb will use such spectra to study, from stars and planets to galaxies."

David and Nora shared some cool behind-the-scenes photos of the process of creating this artwork as well.

Rectangles of different colors of glass with the design image in the backgroundPieces of glass cut and numbered for the design

Partially assembled design with the blue background and empty white space where the mirror will goFully assembled design of the stained glass on a table

Webb Rising now hangs at STScI in Baltimore, home of JWST Mission Operations, where David and Nora can both see it as they work on this ground-breaking mission along many others.

They're both working on other projects now — David on some non-astronomy stained glass and Nora on other logos, like the JWST launch logo (below) — but who knows what astronomy art collaborations the future may hold!

Logo of a rocket over the JWST mirror

We've adapted the design for several products for your to wear, carry, and decorate your home or office space. Check them all out here: JWST Rising at STARtorialist.

Thank you to David and Nora for sharing about your work and providing these wonderful images!

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