The natural world – from the internal structure of cells to enormous galaxies far, far away – is astoundingly beautiful.

Last night, visitors to Sydney’s Vivid Festival were treated to an evening exploring how science inspires art, and how art advances science, through the work of biomedical artist David Goodsell.

CSIRO’s very own Dr Bärbel Koribalski was there to share the exciting research she does into revealing the hidden parts of our Universe. In less than a minute.

Four maps showing the galaxy Circinus at different wavelengths; on the far left is a multi-coloured swirling image on a black background; second from left is a blue swirl on a black background; second from right is a red swirl on a black background; on the far right is a green swirl on a black background.

The Circinus galaxy as seen at different wavelengths (from For, Koribalski & Jarrett (2012);

We thought we’d share Bärbel’s lightning-fast run-down of her visualisation of the galaxy ‘Circinus’:

“I’m taking you on a one-minute journey out into the Universe.

“From the smallest living cells we travel to the largest structure you will see tonight: a spiral galaxy 12 million light years away containing 10,000 million stars like our Sun, spinning like a disk at 200 km per second.

“It would take 50,000 years to cross if you could travel at the speed of light.

“Using data collected by the Spitzer space telescope I mapped the stars (shown in green) and the warm dust of space (coloured red). Using CSIRO’s Australia Telescope radio interferometer near Narrabri I mapped the cold hydrogen gas (coloured blue) that is the fuel for star formation, and a tracer for dark matter in galaxies.

“When combined, these three images reveal gas and stars in the inner disk and spiral arms of the Circinus galaxy.”

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Dr Bärbel Koribalski is a CSIRO Office of the Chief Executive Science Leader. She delivered a ‘lightning talk’ following David Goodsell’s presentation ‘On Making Science Beautiful’ on 29 May 2014. The event was jointly organised by VizbiPlus and Vivid Ideas.