Picturing the Cosmos: Hubble Space Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime

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Table of Contents. Cover p.

Title Page, Copyright pp. Contents pp. Abbreviations pp.

Picturing the Cosmos

Astronomy's Romantic Landscapes pp. The Astronomical Sublime and the American West pp. Ambivalent Astronomers and the Embrace of Hubble Images pp. Translating Data into Pretty Pictures pp.

From Unknown Frontiers to Familiar Places pp. A Very Distant and Peaceful Star pp. Acknowledgments pp. Notes pp. Bibliography pp.

Index pp. About the Author p.

Picturing the Cosmos — University of Minnesota Press

The artists of the Hubble images and the landscape paintings both seem to employ similar schemes of color, light and texture to showcase the stark beauty, vast scale and isolating distance of their locations. One painting of a rock pillar above a waterfall uses sunlight from behind the rock to give it a theatrical halo, an effect that is often seen in the backlit glow of stellar nebulae in Hubble images. Kessler sympathizes with the astronomers who develop the Hubble images, as they often have to balance the sometimes contradictory demands of making the images scientifically valid, visually compelling and accessible to an audience that ranges from fellow astronomers to schoolchildren.

She acknowledges that some Hubble images were specifically designed to be eye-catching in order to encourage public support, financial and otherwise, not only for Hubble and NASA but for science more generally. Scientific images are typically not scrutinized in the same manner as those produced for artistic purposes, says Kessler, and it seems to be her aim to correct this oversight.

Although her use of art-world jargon may be off-putting to some readers, her comparisons of Hubble images to western landscapes, along with interviews with astronomers about developing images and winning over colleagues, will be of particular interest to those interested in the intersection between science and art. View the discussion thread. Skip to main content.