News / USA

Photos Reveal Stunning Perspectives of Space

Images taken by manned spacecraft, robotic space probes

Europa (upper right) is one of Jupiter's moons. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (left) is a vast cyclonic storm system about two times the size of Earth.
Europa (upper right) is one of Jupiter's moons. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (left) is a vast cyclonic storm system about two times the size of Earth.

Multimedia

Links

For decades, the U.S. space agency, NASA, has been exploring space not only with manned spacecraft, like the shuttle Atlantis, but with robotic space probes like Mars Odyssey and Cassini, which is currently exploring Saturn.

Equipped with powerful cameras, these robots transmit pictures that provide information about the climate and topography of other planets.

They are also works of art.

Especially in the hands of photographer Michael Benson. "Beyond: Visions of Our Solar System," a new exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. features nearly 150 of Benson's transformed photographs.

Space curator

Some images in "Beyond" are immediately recognizable, like Saturn with its rings, the fiery red, orange and yellow ball of the sun, and the rocky red Martian landscape. Others look like magnified microscopic organisms rather than planetary panoramas.

Io, one of Jupiter's moons, is the most volcanic object known to man, with at least 200 contstantly erupting volcanos.
Io, one of Jupiter's moons, is the most volcanic object known to man, with at least 200 contstantly erupting volcanos.

Benson selected the images from five decades of robotic space probe photography, beginning with the lunar orbiters of the 1960s to probes that are still sending images back to Earth today from Saturn and Mars.

"Almost all of these pictures are taken by spacecraft with telescopes, which either flew past the planet or orbited it or landed on the surface of that planet," says Bensen.

Benson published many of these images years ago, in a book entitled, "Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes."

Seeing his role as that of a curator, he searched through hundreds of thousands of raw frames looking for shots that he considered extraordinary. "I have an eye for abstraction. I like pictures that subvert expectation a little bit."

Works of art

He turned raw images into gallery-ready prints

The images taken by the space probes are often low-contrast, with some digital glitches that appear as black spots.

This image of a global sandstorm on Mars was pieced together from dozens of individual frames taken from the Viking orbiter of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
This image of a global sandstorm on Mars was pieced together from dozens of individual frames taken from the Viking orbiter of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Benson used graphic software to clean them up and filters to correct the color. Several of the photographs in the exhibit were also pieced together like a mosaic or jigsaw puzzle, including one of a global dust storm on Mars.

"It is comprised of about 90 individual frames from the Viking orbiter of the late 70s, early 80s. And I'm particularly proud of it, because it would not exist in anything like this form if I hadn't found the individual frames as I was going through all of these hundreds of thousands," says Benson.

He is also proud of a black-and-white image made up of 90 frames taken by Voyager I, which began photographing Jupiter in 1979.

On the right hand side, Europa, one of the planet's moons, stands out crisp and clear against impressionistic swirling clouds that are reminiscent of Van Gogh's "Starry Night."

"Europa is one of the most enigmatic places in the solar system," he says. "It is an ice covered ocean. Underneath is liquid water, and it is one of the leading candidates for extraterrestrial life."

Not all of the images are extraterrestrial.

An image of the Earth showing the Mediterranean is a favorite of the photographer. (above, Credit: SeaWiFS Project; NASA; Orbimage; Kinetikon Pictures)

"You can see sand blowing into the Mediterranean from the vast desert in North Africa, the Sahara," says Benson. "You can see smoke from burning forests here in the southern Adriatic sea blowing into the Mediterranean."

Virtual voyager

It's not just the power of the image that appeals to Benson, though. It is knowing that, in this part of the world, the idea of exploration took root.

"You know [Homer's] 'Odyssey,' which is the original expression of our yearning to adventure and travel around, okay, in this case, islands, but it's a precursor of space flight I would say."

Although Benson hasn't traveled into space, he says working on the exhibit was the next best thing. "At times I almost felt like I was on one of these voyages."

While "Beyond: Visions of Our Solar System," will run for a year, NASA's space probes will continue to take photos of our celestial neighbors for many years to come.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs