The following is a brief recollection based
on a show seen on PBS/Nova:
I saw a piece about Pluto from Nova on PBS
the other day. Did you know? Do you realize
that the fly-by at Pluto almost didn't
happen? I mean, almost didn't get recorded?
Just a few days before the closest approach,
on July 4 of all days, Independence day, we
lost contact with the New Horizons probe. A
few months earlier, the discovery of a few
new moons in addition to Charon, orbiting
Pluto, added to the fear that there might be
some debris in the vicinity, parts of past
moon collisions, because there were some
with oddly elongated shapes, like peanuts,
like broken pieces that may have likely
resulted from past collisions in the Kuiper
belt, or so it was thought. NASA quickly
laid out a plan for up to 4 alternate orbits
for the fly-by. Some closer to Pluto, some
farter waya, and with only short timespans
or windows of opportunity to send commands
to the probe's booster controls in order to
change course to the new chosen path.
Then, as the probe came closer and closer to
Pluto, they kept wondering if they'd be safe
to enter the orbital zone near Pluto as
originally planned, or would they hit dust
or rocks? Was there a ring? Was there a
cloud of debris? Was there a high risk of
something small, even the size of a grain of
salt, hitting the probe, at the incredible
speed that the probe was flying, and
piercing through the outside thermal shield,
the inner structure shield, and potentially
destroying an elecronic component?
What if after all these years of flying to
Pluto, they would suddenly be unable to see
the flyby? What if the probe went dead
before it even got there? Or shortly
thereafter, and still unable to transmit all
the recorded data?
On July 4, the dreaded event happened: NASA
lost contact with the probe. We, humanity,
lost contact with the probe. Oh No! Did the
dreaded event happen? Did New Horizons get
hit by something so small and yet so fast
that it was still big enough to cause
Then they remembered, there was an alternate
computer, a backup system, a plan B.... and
it would broadcast on another frequency. So
they went to the deep space network
antennas, and listened. And hoorray!, there
it was, it was still there and alive. Hello
again, Pluto here we come!
But then, a next challenge: they had to
reprogram it to work all recording and
transmitting through the newly booted backup
system, so that it could be the one
recording and transmitting it all. With only
7-8 days left before the close encounter,
they went to work once more, rantically
preparing for using the new system. After 9+
years, there were only a few days left to
reprogram and upload it all and test it and
make it so, to witness the fly-by, to record
And they managed to complete the work about
7-8 hours before the closest point of
passage by Pluto. Ready to record it all.
Now I understand why they were so jubilant.
This was beyond amazing.
The amount of material that was recorded
with take months (!) to be transmitted in
all. We only saw a few pictures so far.
There is much more to come. As long as we
don't hit a rock, after all.
For more about this amazing story, visit
Pluto': PBS Documentary on Epic New
Suddenly, I also
realized, and have accepted, why Pluto is
not a planet: it's one of many others like
it that came from the Kuiper belt. We
already knew that we have a bunch of
planetoids between Mars and Jupiter, the
asteroid belt, and some of them are big.
Ok, we accept that those are not planets.
As for Pluto? same story: there's a bunch
of them like it, a few dozens discovered
so far. Pluto was the first one of them to
be discovered, and it may be one of the
bigger ones known so far, but it's not
alone, far from it, and it hasn't cleared
its neighborhood of other debris orbiting
Either way, there's
a lot of magic out there to
discover, and to document. If you're a
game developer, an illustrator, or simply
an artist in awe, this is a great new
world to explore, and we want to hope you
explore it with Howler and Project
Another filter plugin
for Particle 9: Starfield
prior newsletter we described how to add the
Spherize filter to your collection of
filters for PD Particle 9.
Important reminder: if you have PD Artist or
PD Howler, you don't need to do so, since
you already have the Spherize filter, and
probably a better version.
Now let's add another filter that will also
be handy for quickly creating some
background star fields for space art:
As usual, save it to your local drive and
run it through your antivirus program first,
before using it. And once more, no need to
do this if you already have the filter -
this is mostly intended as an add-on for
users of the new Particle9.
Use 'k' as described in the prior
newsletter, to open the 'killer plugins'
panel, and view your list of Filters. Here's
what you might see before adding Starfield,
after already having added Spherize.
Put a copy of the above-mentioned
Starfield_pf.exe file into the folder where
you have Particle 9 installed.
Then look for the "Options" button in the
upper right corner of the Plugins panel. Use
"Refresh" to get it to refresh the list with
the new content.
After the refresh, you will now also see the
newly added filter.
now ready to use this filter. Simply
double-click it, and voilą!
can adjust the size of the stars, their
distribution too (how many stars), and
their colors. The stars are not all of
that same color, i.e. Red, Green and
Blue does not represent the one and only
color. The color is random, within a
range that is set by these values for
Red, Green and Blue. The higher the
values, the brighter some of the stars
may appear. But some will still have
more of a red tint, others more blue, or
In the end,
you could run one of the filters to
change the appearance for example to
reduce saturation, or re-tint it (change
example. Notice that it doesn't just
generate stars, it also adds a nebulous
cloud, with something like the plasma
another, with extra post work: We used
the Warp tool to push away from the
central star location, and did this
several times and then combined each
stage to create a set of overlapping
images. The result is that it may look a
bit like a plasma force is blowing away
in concentric spheres.
are a few extra items here, painted
stars and flares.
More Space Art
Planet in a coffee cup:
Planet craters made of coffee
More Space Tutorials
Here are some recetly added
tutorials for making interstellar clouds, planets
and other artwork inspired by Pluto.
We have started the development of the next major
release, Howler 10. The main goal with it is to
give the brush system a facelift. There are a
bunch of things that need updating. We're hoping
to share with you on occasion some development
news. Hopefully this will wet your appetite for
more howling and waffling, and convince you that
now's the time to upgrade to v9.6, in preparation
for great savings when upgrading to v10.
It's still a few months away.
Here's a first screenshot, with
a look at the layers.
Well, admittedly, it still has
ways to go. Suffice it to say that v10 will focus
on brushes, not on layers. In other words: The
stuff that some of you have been asking
for, asking for, begging for.... , 32-bit
layers, opaque layers,... that will have to wait
You'll be surprised though, there's plenty off
goodness to come in v10. It's definitely worth
the journey, and we hope you'll be part of it.
The layers panel is getting a refresh to be
simpler and more like other apps, meaning the
buttons have been moved around, and a few have
been removed, such as swapping to the swap
image. Those functions can be found
The next image is with the Harmony color picker.
If you don't know what that is, you need to buy
Howler 9.6 now. If you already know what the
Harmony mixer does, and how to use it, consider
And more blessings are yet come with it.
This is the final teaser for now:
The color picker, looking a bit different from
what you may be used to from v9.6 of the Howler or
Artist editions. Indeed, this look is what we
introduced a few weeks ago when releasing PD Particles 9,
from outer space.
You can create a set of favorite colors, and save
them as your theme. And then, paint away!....
Pigment profiles have been integrated with the
color picker, which seems much more logical, and
makes them more visible to users.
Icons are now vector rendered instead of hand
drawn. It's the style of the times.
3D Stickers, Batch 8
This is batch number 8 of
Michel Agullo's 3D toon characters, rendered to
image stamps with transparent background.
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permitted without written consent from the copyright