NASA aerospace engineer Sandra Olson created this kaleidoscopic collage of fire as an artistic side project to her research on combustion in space. The white, yellow, and orange colors reflect the increasing temperatures of soot within the flame, while blue is the glow of excited carbon and hydrogen bonds as the paper burns.
To compose the image Olson blended three video stills of burning paper freefalling in a drop tower, a tool used to simulate low-gravity conditions. Her creative approach earned her the top prize at the 2011 Combustion Art Competition at the 7th annual U.S. Combustion Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.