‘Colour the Cosmos’ at Science Forum 2023

By Dominic Vertue and Joyful Mdhluli

At Science Forum South Africa 2023, the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) extended an invitation to participants, urging them to “Colour the Cosmos” and craft their own exoplanet for a chance to win a telescope.

This engaging activity attracted individuals of all ages who enthusiastically painted or drew. Many shared their experiences, expressing how time seemed to fly as they immersed themselves in the creative process. Participants found the activity to be a relaxing and rejuvenating break from the bustling Science Forum, pouring their focus and energy into their artistic endeavours. While some were motivated by the desire to win a telescope, a notable number emphasized the therapeutic and calming aspects of painting.

Research has consistently highlighted the efficacy of art therapy in addressing various mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and addiction. Art therapy provides a secure space for non-verbal communication, promotes mindfulness, and enables cathartic emotional expression. It empowers individuals to explore their inner worlds, navigate difficulties, and express emotions (De Petrillo Lili & Winner Ellen, 2005; Visnola et al., 2010).

Astronomy, with its awe-inspiring nature, captivates attention. By harnessing the inspirational potential of Astronomy, we encouraged people to create their own planets. This activity bridged the gap between science and art, establishing a safe and creative environment for participants to explore emotions, process daily stressors, and foster self-expression. Moreover, it served as a platform to raise awareness about astronomy, facilitating discussions on exoplanets and showcasing the application of astronomy in mental health.

The diverse artworks submitted for the competition reflected the participants’ individuality. Each painting, with its unique colours and patterns, became a visual representation of self-expression.


  • De Petrillo Lili, & Winner Ellen. (2005). Does Art Improve Mood? A Test of a Key Assumption Underlying Art Therapy. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 22(4), 205–212.
  • Visnola, D., Sprudša, D., Arija Baķe, M., & Piķe, A. (2010). Effects of art therapy on stress and anxiety of employees. Proceedings of the Latvian Academy of Sciences, Section B: Natural, Exact, and Applied Sciences, 64(1), 85–91. https://doi.org/10.2478/v10046-010-0020-y