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Wallpapers: Images from other places and times


Below are some of my dabblings into the world science fiction themed art.  Click on the previews for a full size image you can download for personal use.  Comments and discussions are always welcome. (rcdavison@orbitalmaneuvers.com) Enjoy!


An extraterrestrial civilization launches a pair of scientific probes to intercept an interstellar asteroid passing through their solar system.

Wallpaper: Interloper

Exoplanet Weather - Sunny with Scattered Showers

How many exoplanets, and potentially exomoons, have weather similar to what we experience day-to-day here on Earth? It’s fascinating to think that right now, somewhere out there in the cosmos, it’s raining or snowing or windy along the seashore or just sunny with scattered showers.  Some day we may have the means to go see it in person!

Wallpaper: Exoplanet Weather - Sunny with Scattered Showers

Nexus Moon's Home Planet

Companion image to "Nexus - The Beginning"
below.  This image presents a view of the moon's home planet. The planet is covered with deserts and dunes, with a thin atmosphere and is devoid of life.

Wallpaper: Nexus Moon's Home Planet

Nexus - The Beginning

All it takes is some water, heat, the right elements and a whole lot of time...Primordial life makes its way out of a lake in an impact crater on an exoplanet's habitable moon.

Wallpaper: Nexus - The Beginning

Shades of Autumn

Meanwhile, back on Earth in the Northern Hemisphere.

Wallpaper: Shades of Autumn


Water on a tidally stressed moon of a gas giant begins to vaporize as the planetary system’s aging star swells in its death throws.

Wallpaper: Alignment

Retirement Home

With the potential number of habitable exoplanets in the Milky Way Galaxy ranging from 300 million to 6 billion (That’s not counting moons that might be habitable, like Pandora in Avatar.) one might just find this planet. Getting there is another story!

Wallpaper - Retirement Home


"Seven minutes of terror" are magnified a hundred times as a lander lowers a rover to the surface of a cold icy moon with a methane atmosphere and geysers showering the way.

Wallpaper - Lander

JUICE Flyby of Ganymede

The European Space Agency’s JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) flies over Ganymede during its mission to explore Ganymede, Europa, Callisto and Jupiter.  Set to launch in August, 2023 and arrive in the Jovian system in 2031.

Wallpaper: JUICE Flyby of Ganymede

Pulsar Embers

The ruins of a city on a circumbinary planet pays mute homage to the pulsar left in the wake of a supernova of one of the stars.  The planet's atmosphere was stripped away in the cataclysm, and its surface is now bathed in X-rays from the young pulsar; one can only hope that it's inhabitants had the technology to escape in time.

Wallpaper: Pulsar Embers

Harvest Moon and Hallows' Eve

Meanwhile, back on Earth it's mid-autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and we celebrate the colors of fall in the setting evening sun with the Harvest Moon.  The end of October brings Halloween and we thrill to the those things that lurk in the shadows and go bump in the night!

Wallpaper:  Harvest Moon
Harvest Moon

Wallpaper: Hallows' Eve
Hallows' Eve

Space is Hard

A space crew finds out the hard way that space is hard as they crash-land on a habitable moon that orbits their home world, which is located in a trinary star system.

Wallpaper: Space is Hard

Ring of Fire

An aboriginal species gathers for the coming night under the light of a pair of colliding galaxies. How many centuries or millennia will pass before they can appreciate the cosmological dynamics at work in their night sky?

Wallpaper: Ring of Fire

Woodland Stream:

Meanwhile, back on Earth...

Wallpaper: Woodland Stream

Ganymede's Morning:

The sun rises over Jupiter and lights up the shadows in one of the many grooves that cut across the surface of the largest moon in our solar system.

Wall paper: Ganymede's Morning

Cassiopeia in 3D:

The constellation, Cassiopeia, is a simple constellation known for its asterism of five stars that looks like a "W" with a slight tilt on one side.  Four of the five stars of Cassiopeia
appear to be very close to the same brightness (Caph, Ruchbah, Schedar and Navi), with one of them slightly dimmer than the rest (Segin).  This gives the impression that the stars are all about the same size and distance from Earth, but when we look at the constellation in a 3D projection we can see that they are not.  The intrinsic brightness of Ruchbah, Schedar and Navi, (and almost for Segin) compensates for their distance from Earth in such a way that it gives the illusion that they are all at the same distance.   See the blog post - Cassiopiea's Illusion for more about this.

Wallpaper - Cassiopeia in 3D

Evening at the Beach:

Take a break, relax and spend an evening at the beach with someone special.  With all the planets out there, it's hard to believe that someplace like this doesn't exist.
(Companion piece to "Dinner for Two with a View".)

Wallpaper: Evening at the Beach

Above the Vortex:

We have a moon that lights up our night sky, imagine if we were in the halo of a spiral galaxy.  Imagine the first travelers into space from the habitable moon that orbits this super-Earth and their amazement when they first viewed their position, suspended over the vortex of the spiral galaxy below. 

Wallpaper: Above the Vortex
        Alternate View:
Wallpaper: Above the Vortex-2

Meanwhile, back on Earth:

Two autumn images to celebrate the colorful transition from summer to winter in the Northern Hemisphere:

    Autumn Morning

   A doe and her fawn greet the morning Sun on a cool autumn morning.

Wallpaper - Autumn Morning

    Autumn Leaves in the Wind

   Celebrate the colors of autumn!

Wallpaper - Autumn Leaves in the Wind


We see these amazing Hubble images of galaxies colliding and it got me wondering about seeing this in one's night sky. Unfortunately, our lifetimes are too minuscule to perceive the changes, but maybe, out there, somewhere, is a living organism whose lifetime extends for eons and it bears witness, as a lone sentinel, to the galactic collision silently unfolding.

Wallpaper - Sentinel


Sailing the seas and waterways of an exoplanet, sailors explore their world.  In time they'll look to the stars and set out on a journey through celestial waterways of the cosmos.

Wallpaper - Waterway

Globular Cluster Rising

A globular cluster rises above the horizon of a wind-swept moon of a terrestrial-like planet.  These dazzling clusters can contain from hundreds of thousands to millions of stars older than our sun.  They are small, only 10 - 300 light-years across compared to our Milky Way Galaxy, which is about 100,000 light-years across.

Wallpaper - Globular Cluster Rising

Stellar Systems of Orion

The Orion constellation is one of the most distinctive constellations in the sky and is visible from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.  Its outline is made up of some of the brightest blue-giant stars in the night sky with Rigel leading the group marking Orion's right leg.  Betelgeuse, a red super-giant marks Orion's left shoulder.  Orion has many other treasures and the stars we see, Rigel, Mintaka (the belt star on the right), Alnitak (the belt star on the left), are not just single stars but are made up of multiple stars orbiting each other.  The image below shows these star system, plus an additional one, Sigma Orionis, which is below Alnitak.  And, let's not forget about the Orion Nebula, a veritable star factory containing over 3000 stars!   (Check out the blog post about these star systems.)

Wallpaper: Stellar Systems of Orion

Close Call

In a game of cosmic billiards a comet threads its way between a planet and one of its moons.  We were not as lucky on June 30, 1908 when an asteroid exploded over Tunguska, Russia, leveling trees over 830 square miles (2,150 sq. km).  International Asteroid day is celebrated on June 30th to bring attention to the threat asteroids pose to our world.

The top image shows a very active comet shrouded in a gaseous coma and generating a blue ion tail along with it's dust tail, while the image on the bottom shows a less active comet nucleus shedding dust, more akin to the comet
67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko that ESA's Rosetta mission spent two years studying.

Wallpaper: Close Call

Wallpaper: Close Call - Comet Nucleus

Terra Alternatus

I’m fascinated with the idea of convergent evolution, where different species can independently evolve the same features over different times or epochs.  Extending this to habitable exoplanets makes me wonder if a land-bound species would develop the same technology to sail their seas that we developed on Earth.  Is this development driven strictly by the laws of physics?  I would expect that those species that gained a deeper understanding of math and the sciences would more rapidly develop the technology to travel to the stars after sailing their oceans.  Just one more thing to ponder when you gaze up at the night sky...

Wallpaper: Terra Alternatus

In the Beginning

A rocky planet going through its early stages of evolution as observed from the vantage point of one of its moons, which is also going though the throes of early development.  The moon, being smaller than the planet is cooling more quickly and has a thickening crust, which is fractured with numerous volcanoes and rifts.

Wallpaper - In the Beginning


A habitable planet in a trinary star system whose inhabitants have felt the wrath of Mother Nature while sailing its seas.  Too often we think of extraterrestrials as more advanced than we are, but we may find that is not the case as we venture out in the cosmos.

Wallpaper - Shipwreck

Ice and Water

Exoplanets are sounding more and more appealing with the current state of affairs on our planet Earth.  Here's a nice one with some sun, some water, a little bit of ice (Maybe more than a little bit!) and even some fauna flying and swimming through its ecosystems.  We just have to find it...and then find a way to get there!

Wallpaper - Ice and Water-1

Alternate scene:

Wallpaper: Ice and Water

Above the Clouds

Back out in the cosmos and cruising through the clouds with some local fauna of a habitable moon of a gas giant.  Maybe one day humankind will see something like this firsthand.

Wallpaper: Above the Clouds

Meanwhile, back on Earth in the Northern Hemisphere it is autumn:

     Autumn Morning Colors

Wallpaper: Autumn Morning Colors

     Autumn Evening Colors

Wallpaper: Autumn Evening Colors

     Blue Autumn

Wallpaper: Blue Autumn

A Really Bad Day!

A rogue planet with its accompanying moon slamming into Earth is not something one wants to contemplate, but it's a possible, although not very probable.  We have more to worry about from asteroids that are in our solar system or passing through.  Some of these are small enough to miss detection, and they can come from any direction.  And, they can be large enough to destroy a city...a very big city!

Appreciate all that we have today, as we do not know what tomorrow will bring!

Wallpaper - A Really Bad Day!

Orion in 3D Revisited  (Featured in Astronomy Picture of the Day)

A revised 3D plot of the Orion constellation, based on a new reduction of the Hipparcos data set by F. van Leeuwen, pushes Orion's stars around a bit from an earlier graph I did in 2014.
The new data set pushes Orion's middle belt star, Alnilam, out past the nebula, which makes the star much brighter and larger than previously thought.  In fact, it now is the brightest star in absolute magnitude in the constellation!  See the blog post: Orion in 3D Revisited for more information.

Wallpaper - Orion in 3D Revisited

If we were to take all the stars of Orion and move them to a distance of 10 parsecs (32.6 light years) from Earth, (The distance used to determine the absolute magnitude for a star.) the constellation would be visible during the daytime!  Below is an approximation of what that might look like around noontime.  (At night it would be amazing!!)

Wallpaper - Orion During the Day

Sail On

With over 6 billion potentially habitable planets in our galaxy alone (not to mention any moon that may be habitable), one has to wonder why we have not had contact with ETs.  Could be that the speed of light barrier doesn't allow us to conquer the vast distances between the stars, or maybe we are the smartest bunch on the block and everyone else is technologically behind us.   Or there is no one else...

"Sail On" depicts a planet where the population is using sails to explore their world.

Wallpaper - Sail On

Morning Gathering

Skimmers gather to feed on aquatic lifeforms that rise to the surface with the light of a new day.  Stromatolite-like structures rise from the shallows surrounded by coral monoliths that have weathered the ages.  Just another day on distant planet somewhere in the Milky Way.

Wallpaper - Morning Gathering

Dusty Mars from Phobos

Time to get off planet Earth and back into space!
A probe from Earth lands on Mars' largest moon, Phobos, just in time to see a dust storm envelop the red planet.  Mars' smaller, more distant moon, Deimos, can be seen of in the distance on the left.


Wallpaper - Dusty Mars from Phobos


Meanwhile, still back on Earth:

Wallpaper - Sunset

Sunrise Cove

Meanwhile back on Earth:

Wallpaper - Sunrise Cove 

Frosty Moon

At the outer fringes of the habitable zone in a binary star system a snow-covered moon orbits a ringed planet.  Despite the frozen environment the moon is teaming with life.  The skiing is great!  Swimming - not so much!

Wallpaper - Fronty Moon

Orion in 3D

Orion the Hunter is one of the most recognizable constellations in the night sky, and one of its striking characteristics is the red super-giant star, Betelgeuse, that marks his left shoulder.  This star is a variable star that changes in brightness over time, but as of the fall of 2019 it has been steadily dimming.  As of February 2020 it has set a new record with its new luminosity and lower temperature.  This may be a prelude to the star going supernova, but then again maybe not.  Astronomers think that it could be a 100,000 years or more before that will happen.  But, then again, there is a lot we don't know about the Cosmos and we are learning more each day.  Maybe Betelgeuse will teach us a thing or two!  (For more information on Orion and the 3D perspective in the illustration, check out the blog post: The Multidimensional Constellation, Orion.)

Wallpaper - Orion in 3D


Volcanos, destroyers and builders of worlds.  They can shape the geography of a planet with the lava they exude and influence its atmosphere by the gas, ash and other particulates they pump out.  This image shows an exoplanet on the outskirts of a galaxy in the neighborhood of a globular cluster.  A series of volcanic islands are forming due to plate tectonic, similar to the Hawaiian island chain in the Pacific.  Thermal vents may exist in the depths of the oceans nurturing more advanced life...

Wallpaper - Volcanos

Autumn Stream and Winter Stream Christmas Night

Two terrestrial images to enjoy and celebrate the beauty of our planet Earth:

Wallpaper - Autumn Stream
Autumn Stream

Wallpaper - Winter Stream Christmas Night
Winter Stream Christmas Night

Night Expedition

As of mid-September 2019 there were just over 4050 confirmed exoplanets. A small percentage of those are the right size, in the right orbit around their stars to have liquid water available and may potentially have environments that could harbor life as we know it. Extrapolating our small sample of stars and the planets that orbit them to the Milky Way Galaxy at large, there may be hundreds of billions of exoplanets out there, with billions in the habitable zones of stars. But it doesn't stop there, because if we consider that many of these planets may have moons, which may also have the right properties to support support life as we know it, the number of habitable celestial bodies could be in the hundreds of billions. What about life as we don't know it?

With all those planets out there we have a lot of exploring to do! In “Night Expedition” a group of future space explorers examine a newly discovered moon orbiting a ringed gas giant.

Wallpaper: Night Expedition

Exoplanet Sunset

Somewhere out there among the estimated 40 billion Earth-sized planets and potentially trillions of moons orbiting in habitable zones of stars, a local star is setting on distant shores of an exo-moon orbiting a gas giant in a binary system.

Wallpaper: Exoplanet Sunset

Sunny With Scattered Snow Showers

Some exoplanets will have weather just as we have on Earth.  Some of those will have a dynamic biosphere filled with life reminiscent of our home world.  With over 4000 exoplanets confirmed, as of July 2019, who knows what wonders await us!

Wallpaper - Sunny With Scattered Snow Showers

Exomoon Annular Eclipse

An annular eclipse is where the foreground planet doesn’t fully block the disk of the star, leaving a ring of light visible around it.  In the image there is a binary system consisting of a standard G-type yellow dwarf star similar to our sun and a red dwarf.  The yellow dwarf has a planetary system which contains a habitable exomoon that orbits a gas giant at just the right distance so that it’s populace is treated to an eclipse with every orbit.

Wallpaper: Exomoon Annular Eclipse

Opportunity Found

The Mars rover, Opportunity, spent 15 years traversing the surface of Mars, covering 28 miles (45 km) while looking for evidence of water. Eventually humans will walk the surface of the red planet and in time they will look for those intrepid machines that preceded them. “Opportunity Found” depicts a Martian evening and the first time human eyes directly behold the rover since it left Earth.

Wallpaper - Opportunity Found

Winter Eclipse

The Moon rising fully immersed in the Earth's shadow during a total eclipse.

Wallpaper: Winter Eclipse

Asteroid Rendezvous

End game: Twin gravity tractors shepherd a rogue asteroid that was on a collision course with Earth. The asteroid did not present a global threat per se, but it is large enough to destroy a large city such as New York, London or Moscow.

The gravity tractors will exert a steady gravitational pull on the asteroid, shifting its trajectory and given adequate time, the asteroid can be deflected enough to miss the Earth. Either of the tractors by itself could deflect the asteroid, but two were sent in the event that if one were to fail, the mission could still be completed. Planetary defense using gravity tractors will only be successful if we find the asteroid threat early enough.

Wallpaper: Asteroid Rendezvous

Lunar Christmas 2018

A cold, clear winter night with a comet and meteor accompanying the full moon in lighting up the forest at night.

Wall paper: Lunar Christmas 2018

Aurora on Exoplanet #9

Earth is not the only planet in our solar system that is illuminated by auroras, the gas giants and ice giants in the outer solar system also have auroral displays.  Even Mars and Venus have auroras, although driven by a different process.  So if we have them, then they must also be found throughout the cosmos and 'Aurora on Exoplanet #9' is one imagining of such a planet.

Wallpaper - Aurora on Exoplanet #9

Autumn Pond

It's autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and here's a tribute to the beauty Mother Nature paints across our landscape.

Wallpaper - Autumn Pond

First Launch

Before ET started zipping around the universe using their hyper-drive, warp-drive, jump-drive, starburst, hyper-space, wormholes, and/or FTL (faster than light) engines, they probably first climbed out of their local gravity well using chemical rockets just as we do today.  (That is assuming that the ACME - Really Big Rubber Band didn't work for them either!) 

“First Launch” depicts the inhabitants of a moon orbiting a ringed planet setting off on their first journey into space.

Wallpaper: First Launch

Parallel Universe

The Milky Way galaxy has about 300 billion stars, and with the latest data gathered from Kepler and other sources there is the potential that most of these stars have at least one planet (probably more) orbiting them, and some of these planets may be in the habitable zone.  And, if you consider the possibility that these planets may have moons, some of which may be habitable, then there are a whole lot of places out there for life to evolve. (Remember, this is just one galaxy out of hundreds of billions of galaxies in our observable universe.)  Now consider multiverses...an infinite number of other universes that may co-exist with ours. 

"Parallel Universe" illustrates a habitable moon of a gas giant in a binary star system somewhere out there, with some very familiar architecture...

Wallpaper: Parallel Universe

Distant Shores

With over 3700 confirmed exoplanets and several thousand more potential candidates located in a small part of our galaxy, I can't believe there is not life out there somewhere.  "Distant Shores" is a glimpse of one possible exoplanet with a variety of life inhabiting it that parallels the beautiful planet we inhabit. 

Wallpaper: Distant Shores

Dinner for Two with a View

Mainly from a refusal to believe that we are destined to be sequestered forever in this backwater of the galaxy, and the confidence I have that we will someday find a way to conquer the immense distances between the stars, I offer “Dinner for Two with a View”.   A gas giant, in the habitable zone of a star, dances with many moons, one of which is a water-world paradise of sorts and makes the perfect vacation destination.  Make your reservations soon!  Oh, and don’t drink the water!

Wallpaper: Dinner for Two with a View

Hello Earth

Sooner or later we will have people on the Moon and they may find that their electronic link to the home world does not satisfy their visceral need to connect with the Earth.  A lone astronaut journeys through shades of greys, blacks and whites to take in the view of our home planet with its swirls of white over the blues, browns and greens.

Wallpaper: Hello Earth 


We have a moon, but imagine if we had rings!  Of course, if we did, we would be as lackadaisical about the rings as we are about our moon.  But here, in "Ringworld", somewhere in this vast cosmos, a family takes in the view of a ringworld in what was once a trinary star system.  Long ago, one of its stars went supernova and left behind a stellar-mass black hole that now feeds off its closest companion and blasts jets of high energy particles and X-rays into the surrounding galaxy.  What a view!

Wallpaper: Ring World

Atlantic Sunrise

Meanwhile, back on Earth.  Enjoy the sun rising and flirting with the crescent moon over the Atlantic Ocean to start a new day!

Wallpaper: Atlantic Sunrise

Life started in the seas.  Water provided the medium and all the nutrients needed for life to form from simple single-celled lifeforms to multi-cellular plants and eventually animals.  But, perhaps it didn't evolve spontaneously.  Perhaps it was seeded by comets, asteroids and meteors from other habitable planets.  This is known as panspermia and the theory is supported in part by the meteors we find on Earth that are directly traceable to Mars.  Who knows what pieces of Earth we may find on Mars.

Wallpaper - Primordial
Alternate version:
Primordial Sunset

Primordial Sunset was chosen for the back cover illustration for the Planetary Society's Planetary Report magazine December Solstice 2018 issue.
Wallpaper: Primordial Sunset

Ice Fairies

Ice fairies come out to mark the winter solstice, the day the sun is at its lowest altitude at noon in the Northern Hemisphere bringing the shortest day of the year.  Ironically, the Earth is closest to the sun at this time of year (the closest point or perihelion will occur on January 3, 2018), but the tilt of planet causes the Northern Hemisphere to experience shorter days and less direct sunlight ushering in winter in the north and conversely, summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Wallpaper: Ice Fairies

Homeward Bound

Life undoubtedly exists or has exited or will exist on other planets scattered about our galaxy and beyond.  These beings will explore their planet and eventually look to the stars to satisfy their wanderlust.  In the image "Journey to the Setting Moons" we see a ship leaving the harbor and in "Homeward Bound" we see the ship returning to its home port half a world away.

Wallpaper: Homeward Bound

Ring Tree

Inspired by the 'dream tree' in the wonderful movie "The BFG" (The Big Friendly Giant, by Roald Dahl) "Ring Tree" combines the magic of an aurora with a shimmering fog and rising ringed planet. 

Rings are probably more common in the cosmos than one might expect.  Some are bold, dramatic rings like the ones encircling Saturn, while others are wispy, barely visible rings like the ones around Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune.  In fact it was recently discovered that a small (1,218 miles long (1,960 km)), potato-shaped dwarf planet, Haumea, has a ring and two small moons.

Wallpaper: Ring Tree