Galaxy in a Jar



Introduction: Galaxy in a Jar

About: I am Ritwik Kaikini, a Graduate of MA in Arts and Technology at University of Texas at Dallas. After graduating with a bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from BMS College of Engineering in India , I complet...

This was a concept of an an aesthetic machine I developed for Mihai Nadin's class on Aesthetics at University of Texas at Dallas during my MA in Arts and Technology.

Anyone can make this cool pickle jar artwork or lamp, which I call a galaxy.

If you're interested in making a galaxy of your own, follow the steps:)

Be careful, keep loads of tissue paper (it gets messy), above all have fun!

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Step 1: Ingredients of a Galaxy

Hello Aliens,

To make the 'Galaxy in a Jar' you will need the following:

  • A powerful torch
  • Empty Pickle Glass Jar
  • Liquid Detergent
  • Oil
  • An empty cardboard box such that your torch fits inside it.
  • Turmeric*
  • Loads of Tissue Paper.**
  • Water
  • Ink (black or blue).

*A household Indian spice. Used for its natural yellowish-orange coloring quality and as an antiseptic.)

**Things can get messy as this is an experimental art activity. We will be using liquids with different viscosities.

Step 2: Prepare Your Universe

Finding the right Box for your torch is important! This is the universe for your galaxy.

  • Make sure the Torch sits well inside the box.
  • Carve out a hole on one side of the box. The size should lesser than the size of the bottom of the jar.
  • Place your torch inside the box and make sure it is stable underneath the carved hole with the torch pointing upward.
  • Fill the jar with water.
  • Place the filled jar on the carved out hole.
  • Switch on the torch

Step 3: Prepare Your Space

Galaxies occur in Space.

Let's prepare our own space.

  • Pour turmeric into the water and stir well.
  • Now switch off all the lights in your room
  • Switch on the torch
  • Your space should be glowing, looking happy, yellow and orange by now.

Step 4: Pour in Your Planets

Now that our universe is ready along with the sun, we need to place in our planets.

This is the most enjoyable part of making your galaxy!

  • Pour in some of the oil and watch the magic unfurl!

Step 5: Wait for the Oil to Settle

Very important step!

  • Wait for a minute or two.
  • The small golden effervescent bubbles of oil begin to coalesce together, all the air pockets collect to form one big globule of air. It looks like another submerged planet in the distance! The air vanishes till you see a clear line of separation between the water and oil.

Step 6: Watch the First Miracle!

Step 7: Place Those Black Holes

  • Use a straw or an ink dropper to put a few drops of ink on the surface of the sun. These are the black holes that are gonna unfurl soon.

Step 8: Wait and Watch!

  • Once these ink drops have been placed on the surface of the resulting fluid, they take a few seconds to travel through the first layer of oil.
[ Why does this happen?
The time taken for these ink drops to penetrate and pass in through the water is dependent on the viscosity of the oil.
Viscosity is the measurement of a fluid's internal resistance to flow. It is a more like texture of the liquid. When you place any liquid between your fingertips and rub your fingertips together , you can feel the viscosity of the liquid.
Viscosity is measured in Centipoise. (cps)
Oil has a higher viscosity than Water. Which means that oil offers more internal resistance to flow than water.
Here's a link to a reference table of viscosities: ]
  • As these ink drops reach the boundary of the oil and water, they emerge and disappear in different patterns. It looks like falling mushroom clouds in a yellow jupiter.

[ Tip: If you had a blue powder instead of turmeric, you could make it a different colour. ]

Step 9: Detergent Time!

  • Take an Q tip , dip it in detergent.
  • Now dip the Q tip into the jar and stir around.
  • Watch what happens from 4:43 in the Video

Step 10: Voila! Galaxy in a Jar

Our Galaxy is now complete.

Keep experimenting with different fluids of different viscosities. Build your own galaxies.

Thank you for being a part of my first instructable :)

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    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks ! :)