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An Art Historian Reflects on the Beauty and Significance of Hubble Telescope Imagery

By Annalee Newitz

kessler_picturingIn a gorgeously-illustrated and thoughtful new academic book, Picturing the Cosmos: Hubble Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime, Stanford art historian Elizabeth A. Kessler analyzes space imagery in the context of centuries of landscape art and photography. She shows us stunning parallels between Romantic landscape paintings that people once created of the "frontier" in the Americas, and the images we produce using space robots and orbital telescopes. What emerges is an analysis of space pictures unlike anything you've ever read before. These aren't just scientifically accurate reproductions of outer space, but works of art. We've got an excerpt from the book, from the introduction where Kessler introduces her central thesis.

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Picturing the Cosmos