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Erin 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 Color 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 www.colorsofnature.org or 
call 907-474-7221.

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