Down to Earth takes asteroid data and produces familiar analogies. It uses the location of the user and the open collaborative human knowledge database to find iconic buildings nearby. Then compares them with asteroid's attributes like size, or distance form Earth to deliver meaningful visual data. Then, it gives the option to crash the asteroid to a selected place to get an idea of what the impact would be. This way of perceiving space brings space data down to earth.

This project is solving the Visualize the Asteroid Skies challenge.


Down to Earth! From space data to ground knowledge.


From NASA’s plans for a manned mission to Mars to the meteor crash at central Russia in 2013, the necessity for space research is a topic that comes up quite often. However, for the majority of people this is still a discussion happening in a galaxy far far away.

“To mobilise resources for asteroid research, we will need to create empathy for the potential moral and economic hazard that these objects present” James Parr, NASA Asteroid Program

And there is nothing surprising about this fact. Terminology, scale, effects on Earth and every day life are just very hard for people to get. Astronauts visit space, but as far as the rest of us are concerned, is there a way to bring space down to Earth?


The lack of open, accessible data is not a problem. There are free databases for people to visit. What is still missing is data in a format that will make sense to users and people’s motivation to engage with them.

Down to Earth solves these two problems by applying data visualisation and gamification to inspire users and make space information appealing and meaningful.


Focusing on asteroid data, Down to Earth takes numbers and uses metaphors to give back personalised visual interpretations. It's not very practical to tell you that the asteroid 1998 KG has a diameter of 500m. If we tell you that it is 5 times the size of Big Ben, then it starts making sense. Comparison with something familiar helps people get a sense of scales and magnitudes. But how can we choose a familiar reference? What if the user is based in New York, Tokyo or Cairo?

Our application uses the location of the user to query an open and collaborative human knowledge database and compare asteroid data to buildings and monuments nearby. The hypothesis is that the user is already familiar with them and they can be safely used as references. It's more likely for a Londoner to capture the size of an asteroid by comparing it to Big Ben, than the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Down to Earth takes itself a bit literally giving the option to crash an asteroid to a selected place. Using the same knowledge database, we retrieve real data about the population density of an area and we measure and present the impact of this fictional event. By gamifying the incidence of a catastrophe, we aim to cultivate awareness and engage people with this invisible threat.


how it works

Our application uses HTML5 geolocation feature to extract user's location. Using the city of the user, we query the open and collaborative human knowledge graph, currently used also by google search engine, to get the tallest buildings of your town, along with details about their lat/lng and their properties (e.g. height). Then, we do the maths and we present the analogy of the asteroid with the building.

Finally, we use the same database to get the popularity density and the area of the city where we crash the asteroid to compute the impact. The api used for querying freebase is provided by google.


    • Contributes in an effort of “mobilizing resources for asteroid research”
    • Potential use for educational purposes
    • Proposes a possible way of putting an open and collaborative human knowledge database ( to use
    • Kick starts a conversation about interactive platforms for familiarization with research
    • Social gaming
    • Web /mobile application


presentation url


Paris Selinas - @ParisSelinas Paris designs products, graphics and recently, asteroids. He is currently working as a design researcher at the Royal College of Art, trying to make the world a bit more fair and a bit less boring.

Panagiotis Tigas - @ptigas Panagiotis is a computer scientist with background in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, by day. At night he is trying to find ways to combine Arts with Science.

Dionysia Mylonaki Dionysia is an artist and designer that explores the role of technology in the development of the future social systems. She is also a co-founder of the Character Engineering Institute and is currently creating experiences and participatory events that aim to challenge the social, political and economic landscape through public engagement.


Film by Misc. Studio. Special thanks to Niki Seth-Smith for her help.

Project Information

License: MIT license (MIT)

Source Code/Project URL:


Web app -
Presentation -
Twitter -
Publication -


  • Panagiotis Tigas
  • Dionysia Mylonaki
  • Paris Selinas