Is The Starry Night Turbulent?

The Starry Night
Vincent van Gogh (1889)


James Beattie, Neco Kriel
Vincent van Gogh’s painting, The Starry Night, is an iconic piece of art and cultural history. The painting portrays a night sky full of stars, with eddies (spirals) both large and small. Kolmogorov1941’s description of subsonic, incompressible turbulence gives a model for turbulence that involves eddies interacting on many length scales, and so the question has been asked: is The Starry Night turbulent? To answer this question, we calculate the azimuthally averaged power spectrum of a square region (1165×1165 pixels) of night sky in The Starry Night. We find a power spectrum, P(k), where k is the wavevector, that shares the same features as supersonic turbulence. It has a power-law P(k)∝k2.1±0.3 in the scaling range, 34≤k≤80. We identify a driving scale, kD=3, dissipation scale, kν=220 and a bottleneck. This leads us to believe that van Gogh’s depiction of the starry night closely resembles the turbulence found in real molecular clouds, the birthplace of stars in the Universe.

Read more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1902.03381.pdf