'Stellar tanning salon' brings light of alien suns to Earth

A few lucky folks have now had their skin kissed by the light of alien suns.

That light was generated here on Earth, at the world’s first “stellar tanning salon,” which opened this week at the Festival of the Future in Munich, Germany.

The salon’s lamps simulate the spectra of a variety of stars, from the bright, bluish-white Vega to the bloated Betelgeuse, a red supergiant whose life will end, perhaps relatively soon, in a violent supernova explosion.

“With a star tan, you’ll be able to experience life on alien planets vicariously,” conceptual artist Jonathon Keats, who developed the idea, said in a statement. “You’ll get the benefits of space tourism without the trouble and expense.”

a man in a suit and holding a glass bottle of mineral water stands in front of a series of lampsa man in a suit and holding a glass bottle of mineral water stands in front of a series of lamps

a man in a suit and holding a glass bottle of mineral water stands in front of a series of lamps

Keats’ own tastes in starlight run toward the cool, though he might be willing to branch out a bit.

“I get a sunburn whenever I go out, so a brown dwarf might be best for me,” he told Space.com via email from Germany. “But I really enjoy a hot summer afternoon, so I’m tempted by WR 142 or LMC195-1— and all the more so given that we could lose them in a supernova any day.”

Related: 20 years of otherworldly thought experiments: A Q&A with artist Jonathon Keats

Like many of Keats’ projects, the new tanning salon, which was engineered by Noran Becker, aims to induce a perspective shift: It invites visitors to think beyond themselves and their home planet, which is, after all, but a speck in an infinitely vast cosmos.

For example, the salon serves meteorite mineral water, which has soaked up the essence of other worlds such as Mars. And you just might rub elbows with a Martian while catching some rays; everyone is welcome at the salon, including folks who would view our sun’s light as exotic.

“The salon is a place where beings from throughout the universe can come together and find common ground,” Keats said in the same statement.

“You can think of it as a galactic community center — one with a nice communal spa,” he added. “It’s the perfect way to show that we are all aliens — and all of us are cosmic beings.”


— Alien thinking: The conceptual space art of Jonathon Keats (gallery)

— Art project creates ‘human-alien hybrids’ with meteorite-infused water

— Artist pushes for ‘Copernican Revolution’ in the arts

The Munich installation will be just the first of many stellar tanning salons, if all goes according to plan. As usual, Keats is thinking big with this project.

“Ideally, the next stellar tanning salon will be situated in another galaxy, or at least on a planet orbiting a star other than our sun. It seems only fair, given that we’re getting the benefit of tanning under otherworldly light, that we share what our solar system has to offer with beings elsewhere,” he told Space.com.

“If another star system isn’t feasible, then I’d be interested in bringing the stellar tanning salon to Club Med,” he added. “People who go there clearly appreciate the sun, so I think it would be a natural place to expand horizons.”

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