The Beauty of Space Photography

So many of the images we see of out­er space are either cold and flat—a plan­et sphere sur­round­ed by scores of pin­point stars against the back­drop of black space—or they’re artists’ ren­der­ings.

The pic­tures fea­tured in The Beau­ty of Space Pho­tog­ra­phy are nei­ther of those. They’re more like con­cep­tu­al art: beau­ti­ful, mys­te­ri­ous, and intrigu­ing.

The video above is the lat­est episode of PBS’s Off Book, a web series that explores new Inter­net cul­ture. In this episode, the pro­duc­ers inter­view three astro­physi­cists, and they are any­thing but the pock­et-pro­tec­tor types. These sci­en­tists are artic­u­late, thought­ful, and pas­sion­ate about space and about pho­tograph­ing what they see through super-pow­er­ful tele­scopes.

Work­ing for dif­fer­ent insti­tu­tions, each sci­en­tist uses pho­tog­ra­phy as a major tool to study space. The images have func­tion­al val­ue of course, to assist with mea­sur­ing and doc­u­ment­ing find­ings. But there’s no deny­ing their beau­ty. Astro­physics also touch­es on philo­soph­i­cal ques­tions, so the pic­tures trig­ger a sense of awe that bor­ders on the exis­ten­tial.

The blue and pink swirls of cloud dust and deep spi­ral-shaped galax­ies in these pic­tures are breath­tak­ing because, as astro­physi­cist Emi­ly Rice says, we know what they are and yet they are unfath­omable.

The images are of such high qual­i­ty that they con­vey some of the depth and grandeur of space. The pic­tures seem to con­tain the unbe­liev­able immen­si­ty and allow us to focus in on just a small, beau­ti­ful piece of what is all around out there.

But that’s just part of the fun of this short video. Lis­ten­ing to the sci­en­tists talk about their work is like hav­ing an expert guide you through the uni­verse, a docent who’s excit­ed and edu­cat­ed about things that none of us can tru­ly com­pre­hend even as we gape at their beau­ty.

The oth­er sci­en­tists fea­tured in this short are David Hogg (NYU) and Zolt Lev­ay (Space Tele­scope Sci­ence Insti­tute).

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Find Cours­es on Astron­o­my and Physics in our Col­lec­tion of 700 Free Online Cours­es

125 Great Sci­ence Videos: From Astron­o­my to Physics & Psy­chol­o­gy

The Won­der, Thrill & Mean­ing of See­ing Earth from Space. Astro­nauts Reflect on The Big Blue Mar­ble

An Ani­mat­ed Visu­al­iza­tion of Every Observed Mete­orite That Has Hit Earth Since 861 AD

Kate Rix writes about dig­i­tal media and edu­ca­tion. Vis­it her web­site or fol­low her on Twit­ter @mskaterix.

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  • Martin Sne says:

    I just cant wait! There is no rea­son to take for grant­ed that peo­ple out there should dif­fer very much from us. A plan­et with life sim­i­lar to what we know can be close — only four mil­lion light years or so away. So in only a lit­tle four mil­lion years of time we will hear the News from out there. It´s gonna be… wow!

  • Medavaram Jitamitra says:

    Respect­ed Sir/Madam,so much hard work put into the sub­ject, which is fas­ci­nat­ing and always a dream. A com­mon man can­not wait for a long time, but pro­fes­sors, sci­en­tists, and oth­er intel­li­gentsia still work­ing hard for more results. A fine bal­ance between sci­ence and space result­ed in such a fan­tas­tic, respect­ed and respon­si­ble pho­tos. No words, except thanks. Sir/Madam, if you are at lib­er­ty, please send me pho­tos of plan­ets with names, and with real depth. Hope­ful­ly it is not going to be a task for you. A small request from an ordi­nary man.
    Thank­ing you, Sir/Madam
    I remain and yours tru­ly
    Medavaram Jita­mi­tra from 🇮🇳
    Flat No 402, Door No.12–69
    Vasista Enclave (Opp Auto Nagar Bus Depot)
    Vijayawa­da, PIN-500007

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