posted Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 4:31 PM EST


We've seen some pretty cool light-painting projects over the years -- ping-pong balls under blacklight spring to mind, as do Red Bull's light-painted wakeboard photos, and pretty much everything we've seen from the lustworthy Pixelstick -- but Japan's Dr. Koichi Wakata has taken the artform out of this world. (And we do mean that quite literally.)

How's that possible? Well, Wakata-san is both an engineer and astronaut for JAXA, otherwise known as the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and an analog to the United States' NASA. He's a veteran of four Space Shuttle missions, and is currently serving as commander of Expedition 39 to the International Space Station. And it's not his first ISS trip, either -- he spent more than four months on the station back in 2009, and had logged some five months in space over the last two decades even before his current expedition.

Wakata-san and the first half of his Expedition 39 crew docked with the ISS on November 7th, 2013, and they're slated to remain there until this May. In the six months or so that they'll be orbiting planet Earth, they'll have many important tasks to perform -- but they'll also have a fair bit of well-deserved downtime. It's in that time that Wakata-san has been creating his light-painted artworks with a device dubbed the Spiral Top, which cleverly takes advantage of the unique zero-gravity conditions on the space station. It's something Wakata-san also did on the previous trip, and the results are being shared on his Twitter feed.

Photos from the earlier trip can be found on JAXA's website, as well as on the website of the Spiral Top's creator, Dr. Takuro Osaka of the University of Tsukuba. We've shared a few of our favorites from the earlier expedition below. Be sure to visit Wakata-san's Twitter feed for the latest orbital light painting creations, which are even more spectacular -- and keep a weather eye out, because we wouldn't be surprised if there are more in the months to come!




(via Juxtapoz)