by Kathleen Horner

"The spiral in a snail's shell is the same mathematically as the spiral in the Milky Way galaxy, and it's also the same mathematically as the spirals in our DNA. It's the same ratio that you'll find in very basic music that transcends cultures all over the world."
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt


Kathleen galaxy1Glitter Art, The Milky Way Barred Spiral Galaxy


From the year 1610 when Galileo Galilei first observed the Milky Way band of light into individual stars with the aid of his telescope, the Milky Way has continued to mesmerize Earthlings. As it becomes less of an enigma from that of Galileo's time to a place today where we now have a more precise and scientific understanding of our galaxy, the Milky Way still continues to inspire us in so many ways.  A little quote I live by goes like this, "Inspiration is the spinning wheel of dreams set ablaze."  So let's play with glitter and create our own Milky Way galaxy! This is an especially cool and creative project for students who may be studying the Milky Way galaxy. But don't let your age stop you from having some artistic fun with this project!  Simply put, this is just another way to get in touch with your 'inner artist' and your home galaxy using art as pure expression.

I created two Milky Way galaxies by using glitter, art glitter sheets, dark blue poster board, Elmer's glue and white paint.  The sparkly glitter really works well to give the effect of billions of stars that our galaxy contains.  Let's make that anywhere from 100 to 400 billion stars to be more exact!

Begin by surfing the internet for images of the Milky Way galaxy. Here are two that I used as a study to create my Milky Way galaxy designs. (See photos below).


Kathleen galaxy2

Artist image of Milky Way barred spiral Galaxy (left) and Milky Way seen from Earth (right) by Dave Morrow, photographer.


 Kathleen galaxy3Glitter art, The Milky Way view from Earth

Material you'll need:

  • Glitter, white, silver, blue
  • Glitter Glue, deep blue
  • Small White Rhinestones (self-adhesive)
  • Acrylic craft paint, Black, Blue, White
  • Foamies Glitter Art Sheets (optional)
  • Dark Blue Poster Board
  • Medium art paint brush
  • Wide art paint brush
  • Old Toothbrush
  • Elmer's Glue (dries clear)

For the barred spiral Milky Way galaxy I used a Foamies glitter sheet with gold stars.  Foamies are all over the internet so check there if your local craft store does not carry them.  If you can't find Foamies glitter sheets, then create your own glitter sheet by using Elmer's glue and glitter.  Using a wide brush apply glue all over a sheet of paper then sprinkle blue glitter over the surface.  In lieu of glitter art sheets, you can use dark blue poster board cut to size and splatter white paint onto it with an old toothbrush to give the effect of stars.  Dip toothbrush into white paint and run a pencil over the brush area pointing towards the sheet.  Makes a really cool starfield!


How to make a glitter Milky Way galaxy

Lay out a glitter sheet or a blue poster board sheet cut to size with white paint starfield.  Mix white paint with a little water.  Dip medium brush into Elmer's glue and paint the center area. Take white glitter and sprinkle over wet glue center of the galaxy.  Then form the yellow glow around the center by painting more Elmer's glue around the edge of the center and sprinkle yellow or gold glitter over the wet glue. Use your brush and finger tips to gently press in and spread out the glitter.  Next, mix more watered-down white paint and form the spiral arms with the brush to give the arms a soft, filmy look (see photo). This will serve as a base to put the glue and glitter over. Let dry. Pour out some Elmer's glue on a small sheet of paper, dip brush in glue and paint the glue over the spiral arms.  Sprinkle white glitter over the wet glue on the arms, pressing and spreading gently with fingertips.

For the Milky Way view from Earth design, I followed the same directions from above when using the wet glue and glitter only using a different design of the Milky Way path across the sky. Be sure to paint a watered-down white base of paint all along the path of the Milky Way. This will give the effect of a soft white glow under and around the edges of the glitter. Mix the blue and black acrylic paint together for a dark blue hue. By looking at the photo, paint the dust and clouds along the path in the galaxy with the dark blue paint mixture. Dip brush into the glue and lightly paint over the dark blue areas. Sprinkle blue glitter over the wet glue.   I added white rhinestones randomly to give the effect of stars.  

Of course, you can pick any nebula or galaxy that you find online or in a book and create something different from the Milky Way galaxy.  Load up on glitter and glue and be creative!

Illustrations below: Galaxy BX 442, oldest galaxy, 10.7 billion light years from Earth discovered by Hubble Space Telescope....that means it existed 3 billion years after the Big Bang.  It deserves a more creative name as it is a spectacularly beautiful ancient spiral galaxy. It resembles a swan preening its feathers so I will name it the White Swan Galaxy.  To create one, use a blue poster board sheet with splatter paint starfield. Paint the shape of the galaxy with a watered-down white paint base using a cotton ball to smear and spread out the edges. I  let it dry and then spread glue with my paint brush along the spiral arms.  Sprinkle white glitter over the wet glue. It doesn't have to look exactly like the photo....remember, this is art and it can be your own expression as well.

Kathleen galaxy4Glitter Art of Galaxy BX 442 (left) Artist Image of Galaxy 442 (right)


Milky Way Facts

Kathleen galaxy5To ancient Chinese fancy, the Milky Way was a luminous river, the River of Heaven, the Silver Stream Lafcadio Hearn.

"If you want to see a black hole tonight, just look in the direction of Sagittarius, the constellation. That's the center of the Milky Way Galaxy and there's a raging black hole at the very center of that constellation that holds the galaxy together."
-- Michio Kaku

Edwin Hubble was the first to come up with the "barred, spiral" galaxy classification.  In 2005, with the aid of infrared vision, the Spitzer Space telescope observations suggested that the Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy.
The Milky Way galaxy, once believed to be very large and dense is now thought to be, according to scientists, a light-weight among galaxies.   We know this by measuring the dark matter, the cosmic glue that holds galaxies together.  Dark matter makes up about 25% of the Universe and holds our planet, Earth, and our Sun safely within the bounds of the Orion arm of our Milky Way galaxy.

Ponder this: The Earth spins around its axis at a speed of about 1000 MPH and orbits the Sun at a speed of roughly 100,000 MPH.  Our Solar System is moving at a speed of 420,000 MPH and orbits the Milky Way galaxy every 250 million years plus there's some speculation that the Milky Way galaxy is moving through the Universe at an estimated 2,237,000 MPH.  Everything is moving in circles in the Universe and like in a song from the 60's:

"We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look
Behind from where we came.
And go round and round and round..."





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