Carter Emmart, Ph.D. – A Space Perspective

In Making Waves Conversations by Mark Sylvester

A Space Perspective

Is space travel our salvation?  Perhaps, but just not in the ways we might have thought. 

The sky is a deeply rooted metaphor of the infinite, the untouchable celestial realm inhabited by gods. Those who traveled to the moon reacted genuinely in unscripted ways about where they went, what they traveled through, and how moved they were to see Earth in unexpected ways.

Today, spacecraft imagery, computer graphics, data visualization and gaming technology have enabled an accurate portrayal of the universe, both as we have charted it and how we simulate its behavior to our best understanding.  We now explore this authentic virtual space and become familiar with that rich celestial realm seeing back to the beginning of time. 

Compared to the size of our planet, the speed of light is blindingly fast, and astronomical distances are ridiculously vast; however, we can visually traverse the known universe by scaling our perspective exponentially, similar to how we use scientific notation in mathematics.  Showing what surrounds us gives us context to better understand our condition, origins, and possible futures.  By comparing our world to those around us, we realize how special life is, how long it’s been here and how briefly human thought has even had this perspective. 

Seeing Earth against cosmic scale exposes the absurdity of human difference, the invisibility of borders, the commonality of needs, all within a terrifying thinness of atmosphere.  We hold the power of the stars; yet lack the power over tribal divisions.

Carter Emmart

Ph.D., AMNH Director of Astrovisualization

Carter Emmart is the Director of Astrovisualization for the American Museum of Natural History and Hayden Planetarium. He directs the production of its award-winning space shows and oversees the development of the NASA-supported open-source software called OpenSpace (, which visualizes an authentic 3D atlas of the known universe.  Before joining the museum in 1998, Carter, who previously worked at NASA Ames Research Center, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, got his bachelor’s degree in geophysics from the University of Colorado, where he was also an organizer and illustrator for the Case for Mars conference series.  He received his honorary Ph.D. from Sweden’s Linkoping University for directing their graduate interns at AMNH to bring the latest visualization research into planetarium domes.  In 2016, he was awarded the prestigious Technical Achievement Award of the International Planetarium Society.  Carter grew up in a family of artists and started planetarium courses at the Hayden Planetarium at age ten in 1971.

More Resources

Upcoming Salon Conversations


Sheela Shenoi – The pandemic’s effects on global health

Feb 22, 2023 04:00 PM in Pacific Time
Dr. Shenoi will review the covid19 pandemic’s trickle-down effect on other health conditions worldwide, including tuberculosis and HIV and noncommunicable diseases that plague our world.
Speaker bio & Register for this talk

Asude Altintas – Bringing Heart to Science Education

Mar 1, 2023 12:00 PM in Pacific Time
Asude will talk about the “double-winged” approach in education. She learned about this idea at YGA, an NGO in Turkey. They believe children need to be double-winged, competent, and compassionate to make a positive impact by using their minds and hearts together.
Speaker bio & Register for this talk

Sarah E. McDonald – Cancer: How we show up for others in crisis

Mar 29, 2023 04:00 PM in Pacific Time
At 44, Sarah McDonald was newly married, newly promoted, and planning pregnancy. It felt like a time of new beginnings when suddenly she was diagnosed with a rare, incurable cancer. Two months later, she was diagnosed with another unrelated cancer. In this conversation, we’ll explore how we show up, especially with many challenges in the past few years.
Speaker bio & Register for this talk

Jennifer Karapetian – Imprisoned in a web of trauma

Apr 19, 2023 04:00 PM in Pacific Time
Intergenerational trauma can lead to a perpetual cycle of substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, child abuse, interpersonal violence, and other criminal behavior. We can break the cycle of intergenerational trauma through greater access to mental health and substance abuse treatment, education, and community awareness.
Speaker bio & Register for this talk

Matthew Chang – A Teen Climate Activist’s Perspective on the Cumulative Power of Action

May 17, 2023 04:00 PM in Pacific Time
At first glance, an innocuous cold email may not seem like a powerful seed of change. But for Matthew, it has led to a climate movement and years of public service.
Speaker bio & Register for this talk

Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, MD – The Long Road to Awareness: Breaking down barriers in long covid research

May 31, 2023 04:00 PM in Pacific Time
There is irrefutable data on the underpinnings of post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (aka Long COVID). However, despite the burgeoning research on the topic, it has taken some time for the medical community and the general public to recognize the existence and severity of Long Covid.
Speaker bio & Register for this talk