Astronomy becomes art

Posted by Karri Ferron
on Tuesday, October 09, 2012

A 2006 image of Saturn by Damian Peach, a well-known planetary photographer and frequent Astronomy contributor, is one of 106 astroimages currently on display at the Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston, Maine, as part of its exhibit Starstruck: The Fine Art of Astrophotography.
Astronomy enthusiasts have long thought their favorite subject represents the most beautiful science. All celestial targets, from Saturn’s spectacular rings to the Andromeda Galaxy’s magnificent spiral arms, put true natural splendor on display in photographs. And now, the art community is beginning to agree.

For the first time, a major exhibition is examining astroimaging as an artistic genre. Now through December 15, the headliner at the Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston, Maine, is Starstruck: The Fine Art of Astrophotography, which features 106 celestial images by 35 astro-artists from 11 countries. Some of the work is even from regular Astronomy contributors like Damian Peach and Ken Crawford.

The museum's curator of education, Anthony Shostak, organized the exhibition because he believes modern technology has given astrophotographers the ability to enhance their celestial targets and allowed them to use an artistic eye. “Their creations,” says Shostak, “are nothing less than overwhelming, depicting humbling, glorious delights that are often invisible to both the naked eye and even the telescope, and are revealed only through photographic means.”

I couldn’t agree more! So if you’re in the Lewiston area, check out the exhibit, which will also include a variety of educational programs such as lectures, workshops, guided star parties, concerts, theatrical performances, and films. And if you can’t make it to Maine before December 15, you can purchase a 242-page color catalog that documents the exhibition, illustrates each work in it, and features essays by the jurors who selected the pieces as well as Eric Wollman, a professor of physics at Bates. It’s a great coffee-table book for any astronomy enthusiast.

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