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

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9780816679577: Picturing the Cosmos: Hubble Space Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime
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The vivid, dramatic images of distant stars and galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope have come to define how we visualize the cosmos. In their immediacy and vibrancy, photographs from the Hubble show what future generations of space travelers might see should they venture beyond our solar system. But their brilliant hues and precise details are not simply products of the telescope’s unprecedented orbital location and technologically advanced optical system. Rather, they result from a series of deliberate decisions made by the astronomers who convert raw data from the Hubble into spectacular pictures by assigning colors, adjusting contrast, and actively composing the images, balancing the desire for an aesthetically pleasing representation with the need for a scientifically valid one.

In Picturing the Cosmos, Elizabeth A. Kessler examines the Hubble’s deep space images, highlighting the remarkable resemblance they bear to nineteenth-century paintings and photographs of the American West and their invocation of the visual language of the sublime. Drawing on art history and the history of science, as well as interviews with astronomers who work on the Hubble Heritage Project, Kessler traces the ways that the sublime, with its inherent tension between reason and imagination, not only forms the appearance of the images, but also operates on other levels. The sublime informs the dual expression—numeric and pictorial—of digital data and underpins the relevance of the frontier for a new era of exploration performed by our instruments rather than our bodies. Through their engagement with the sublime the Hubble images are a complex act of translation that encourages an experience of the universe as simultaneously beyond humanity’s grasp and within the reach of our knowledge.

Strikingly illustrated with full-color images, this book reveals the scientific, aesthetic, and cultural significance of the Hubble pictures, offering a nuanced understanding of how they shape our ideas—and dreams—about the cosmos and our places within it.

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About the Author:

Elizabeth A. Kessler teaches art history at Stanford University.

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Since its celebrated launch into orbit in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has yielded a cornucopia of observational data that has immeasurably benefited the fields of astronomy and cosmology. The strikingly detailed, colorful photos of whirling galaxies and murky nebulae have also captured the public’s imagination and sparked renewed enthusiasm for space exploration. According to Kessler, an authority on the visual culture of science, much of this “special effects” exhibitionism has been deliberate, as astronomers working for the Hubble Heritage Project have used computers to manipulate hue and contrast to create awe-inspiring images. Kessler looks over the shoulders of the project’s team leaders and describes the decision-making processes behind producing photos that are both aesthetically pleasing and scientifically accurate. Perhaps the biggest surprise here is how closely the team adheres to romantic notions of grandeur, with pictures often resembling the sweeping vistas produced by Ansel Adams. While Kessler’s work won’t replace those heavy coffee-table astronomy books that showcase Hubble’s best imagery, it will make readers more fully appreciate just what they’re looking at. --Carl Hays

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9780816679560: Picturing the Cosmos: Hubble Space Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime

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Book Description University of Minnesota Press, United States, 2012. Paperback. Condition: New. New. Language: English. Brand new Book. The vivid, dramatic images of distant stars and galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope have come to define how we visualize the cosmos. In their immediacy and vibrancy, photographs from the Hubble show what future generations of space travelers might see should they venture beyond our solar system. But their brilliant hues and precise details are not simply products of the telescope's unprecedented orbital location and technologically advanced optical system. Rather, they result from a series of deliberate decisions made by the astronomers who convert raw data from the Hubble into spectacular pictures by assigning colors, adjusting contrast, and actively composing the images, balancing the desire for an aesthetically pleasing representation with the need for a scientifically valid one.In `Picturing the Cosmos,` Elizabeth A. Kessler examines the Hubble's deep space images, highlighting the remarkable resemblance they bear to nineteenth-century paintings and photographs of the American West and their invocation of the visual language of the sublime. Drawing on art history and the history of science, as well as interviews with astronomers who work on the Hubble Heritage Project, Kessler traces the ways that the sublime, with its inherent tension between reason and imagination, not only forms the appearance of the images, but also operates on other levels. The sublime informs the dual expression--numeric and pictorial--of digital data and underpins the relevance of the frontier for a new era of exploration performed by our instruments rather than our bodies. Through their engagement with the sublime the Hubble images are a complex act of translation that encourages an experience of the universe as simultaneously beyond humanity's grasp and within the reach of our knowledge.Strikingly illustrated with full-color images, this book reveals the scientific, aesthetic, and cultural significance of the Hubble pictures, offering a nuanced understanding of how they shape our ideas--and dreams--about the cosmos and our places within it. Seller Inventory # AAJ9780816679577

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Book Description University of Minnesota Press, United States, 2012. Paperback. Condition: New. New. Language: English. Brand new Book. The vivid, dramatic images of distant stars and galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope have come to define how we visualize the cosmos. In their immediacy and vibrancy, photographs from the Hubble show what future generations of space travelers might see should they venture beyond our solar system. But their brilliant hues and precise details are not simply products of the telescope's unprecedented orbital location and technologically advanced optical system. Rather, they result from a series of deliberate decisions made by the astronomers who convert raw data from the Hubble into spectacular pictures by assigning colors, adjusting contrast, and actively composing the images, balancing the desire for an aesthetically pleasing representation with the need for a scientifically valid one.In `Picturing the Cosmos,` Elizabeth A. Kessler examines the Hubble's deep space images, highlighting the remarkable resemblance they bear to nineteenth-century paintings and photographs of the American West and their invocation of the visual language of the sublime. Drawing on art history and the history of science, as well as interviews with astronomers who work on the Hubble Heritage Project, Kessler traces the ways that the sublime, with its inherent tension between reason and imagination, not only forms the appearance of the images, but also operates on other levels. The sublime informs the dual expression--numeric and pictorial--of digital data and underpins the relevance of the frontier for a new era of exploration performed by our instruments rather than our bodies. Through their engagement with the sublime the Hubble images are a complex act of translation that encourages an experience of the universe as simultaneously beyond humanity's grasp and within the reach of our knowledge.Strikingly illustrated with full-color images, this book reveals the scientific, aesthetic, and cultural significance of the Hubble pictures, offering a nuanced understanding of how they shape our ideas--and dreams--about the cosmos and our places within it. Seller Inventory # AAJ9780816679577

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