News & Events

Refurbished Neptune re-enters the Solar System

Auto Collision Repair students at Northern Maine Community College usually see their share of bent bumpers, wrecked rocker panels, and peeled paint, but one recent graduate tackled a pitted and pockmarked planet.

Neptune—usually located 31 astronomical units (miles) from the Sun as part of the Maine Solar System Model, established by the University of Maine at Presque Isle, the Northern Maine Museum of Science and the northern Maine community, along Route 1 in northern Maine—was taken out of orbit and brought to the Automotive Collision Repair Lab at NMCC, where NMCC student and part-time artist, Christian Goddard, went to work.

“Because the inside structure was damaged, I needed to rebuild the shape while retaining the parts of the planet that were still intact. I decided to use spray foam to rebuild it, which allowed me to carve it and smooth it out before placing a fiberglass shell over it,” Goddard said.

He then went about priming the surface for airbrushing the needed blues and whites which give Neptune its unique characteristics.

“This type of job is not something that we normally take on, but it was a good fit for last semester’s airbrushing class,” Bob Collins, NMCC Automotive Collision Repair Instructor, said. “The additional fiberglass work presented some unique challenges and was a good learning experience for the students.”

Collins added: “The additional perk is that after Neptune finds its way back into the solar system, Christian and the other students that participated in this work will have a reminder of their time at NMCC each time they drive by.”

This is not the first time Goddard’s work will be on display — he has participated in art gallery shows in the past. He said the first time he picked up a paintbrush was when he was about four or five. He now primarily creates spray-can art on automobile hoods, benches and poster boards, but this is the first time he has worked with an astronomical canvas.

“I am very proud that it came out the way that it did,” he said. “This was my first 3-dimensional object to paint and it was an interesting and challenging project to work on.”

The Maine Solar System Model was built over a period of four years, from 1999 to 2003, with dwarf planets added in 2008. It is the largest solar system model in the Western Hemisphere, with both the planet diameters and distances from the Sun set to a scale of one mile equal to an astronomical unit (AU, the distance from the Sun to Earth). The model consists of a 50-foot diameter Sun and extends 95 miles to the dwarf planet Eris, which is about one inch in diameter, in Topsfield.

The current maintenance repaired some damage to the fiberglass on the back side of the planet and reconditioned Neptune for hopefully another 20 or more years in orbit.

For more information, about the Maine Solar System Model, contact UMPI’s Community and Media Relations Office at 207-768-9452 or umpi@maine.edu.

For more information on the Automotive Collision Repair program at NMCC, visit www.nmcc.edu.