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

Photogallery Kyiv: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins 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.
Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Weeki
X
August 29, 2014 2:18 AM
The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid