Eyes on the sky: Carter Emmart

Everyone enjoys looking at the stars.  My uncle, Carter Emmart, has made a career of it.  As the Director of Astrovisulization at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, Carter has directed the beautifully orchestrated space shows that are shown to visitors from around the world.  Utilizing technology called The Digital Universe, he has helped to expand our knowledge of the solar system and beyond through the creation of a multifunctional template that changes the way that people are educated about outer space and how researchers can study celestial events and objects.  Matching art with science, Carter is a leader in his field, a rockstar in the planetarium community and is constantly touring the universe with the next generation of young astronomers from around the world.   

Cater was instrumental in an initiative called The Case For Mars, which was a symposium held at the University of Colorado in Boulder in the mid-1980’s.  A natural life long explorer and artist, he began to visually interpret mans futuristic technology that would be necessary for travel and habitation of the Red Planet.  His early drawings and models have become a mainstay in the space exploration community and are still heavily referenced to this day.  The forethought and visions of applicable space travel have withstood the test of time, as he was able to visually express the kind of technology that would be required for interplanetary travel.  Grasping the necessity for aspects such as terraforming, mobility, harnessing energy, natural food sources and travel around Mars, his illustrations go one step further beyond that of science fiction and into the realm of achievable technology. 

While his involvement with the Case For Mars provided a distinct template for his visual interpretations on the exploration of other worlds, he soon directed his focus back at home.  Over the years, Carter has built an extraordinary career and reputation in the sciences, eventually landing a job at the American Museum of Natural History.  The planetarium at the Rose Center was a childhood love of his and now he sits at the helm of the operation.  Tasked with creating an immersive experience for visitors, Carter took things to the next level.  Working a team from Sweden, they were able to help create a program that allows one to digitally fly through the universe, with every celestial object that has been mapped in its proper place.  With the planetarium dome as his canvas, Carter has become a pilot of a different sort, taking people to the furthest reaches of space and throughout our own solar system.  

No longer striving to achieve interplanetary travel, Carter’s focus is now purely based on Planet Earth.  He calls our world a spaceship and he describes how we are traveling through space on a vessel with limited resources and no escape pods.  This accurate view of our current disposition is a much more realistic way of viewing our existence.  While we will probably not achieve sustained manned missions to other planets during our lifetime, what we can do is clean up our own mess that we’ve made on Earth and continue to advance technologies for future generations to utilize in their search for a new locations to one day settle upon. 


The Known Universe from AMNH on Vimeo.

The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world’s most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010. Data: Digital Universe, American Museum of Natural History haydenplanetarium.org/universe/ Visualization Software: Uniview by SCISS Director: Carter Emmart Curator: Ben R. Oppenheimer Producer: Michael Hoffman Executive Producer: Ro Kinzler Co-Executive Producer: Martin Brauen Manager, Digital Universe Atlas: Brian Abbott Music: Suke Cerulo