Science cafe shows waterfalls in new light

March 22, 2013

Colors of Nature Science Cafe featuring Erin Pettit, 2013Erin Pettit’s photos live a double life. By day, they aid a geophysicist with her research on frozen waterfalls. By night, they make appearances in the Fairbanks art scene. They have already debuted in a First Friday gallery showing. Now they are coming to the College Coffeehouse Wednesday, March 27 from 7 - 8 p.m., when Pettit will lead a discussion about her photos. Are they art, science or both?


The UAF geophysicist studies the relationship between weather and frozen waterfalls and uses tools like special cameras to help her. She will bring a thermal camera to the talk, since she uses it in her research to photograph the invisible infrared light that frozen waterfalls emit. All objects, including people, emit infrared light as heat. The warmer the object, the more light it gives off. The different temperatures of objects come across as different colors in a thermal photograph.


Pettit also brings back samples of waterfall ice and takes pictures of them under a microscope. The pictures look like a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes because of the way light hits the ice crystals and bends away from them. While the different colors look pretty, they also reveal a lot about ice structure.


Pettit’s talk is part of the Colors of Nature science café series, which features scientists leading conversations about art in science. The College of Natural Science and Mathematics hosts the program. The event is free to the public and open to all ages. For more information, go to or call 907-474-7221.


For more information, email Meghan Murphy, CNSM public information officer & recruitment coordinator.