6 October 2008

Planets as Art

Posted by Ryan Anderson

I’m often struck by how beautiful landscapes are when seen from above, whether they are on Mars, Earth, or anywhere else. With the high-resolution images from HiRISE this is especially true; with such a close view, the scale and context can be lost, and the images become more akin to abstract textures. Here’s a great example: It’s a dune field inside a crater on mars, but it looks like rumpled satin or waves on dark water.

The same is true for views of the Earth: when we can look down from above we can see things differently and even barren landscapes and polluted cities can be beautiful.  Today’s post over at The Big Picture has a fantastic series of images of the earth from above. I especially liked this one of Iceland:

I’m not the only one who thinks that the beautiful images taken of planets qualify as art. In fact, Cornell is hosting the 40th annual Division for Planetary Sciences meeting next weekend, and along with the conference the art museum on campus is displaying a selection of spectacular images from the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn. The Cornell Symphony Orchestra will also be playing Holst’s famous symphony “The Planets“, with a photographic accompaniment assembled by myself and many others. (we’re hoping to post the videos online at some point) They’ll also be playing a never-before-performed piece of music inspired by the same amazing images of Saturn that will be on display at the art museum.

It is easy to think about science and art as existing totally isolated from one another, but both are among humanity’s greatest accomplishments. It only seems fitting that they sometimes overlap.