The truly massive clouds of gas and dust that we call Nebulae are often the subjects of some spectacular photography, but these pictures leave the task of visualizing the 3D-space a nebula takes up to our imagination. That challenge inspired Finnish astrophotographer J-P Mestävainio to create artistically-interpreted 3D animations of nebula he's photographed. His method involves adding interpretations and educated guesses based on the formation of the nebula and a rule-of-thumb that brighter stars are closer than darker ones to known data about the nebula, like distance and the location of certain stars around it to create a 3D model of the nebula. It may not have much scientific merit, but it's a fantastic way to see these structures...
SternisheFan writes "The structure of the universe and the laws that govern its growth may be more similar than previously thought to the structure and growth of the human brain and other complex networks, such as the Internet or a social network of trust relationships between people, according to a new study. 'By no means do we claim that the universe is a global brain or a computer,' said Dmitri Krioukov, co-author of the paper, published by the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), based at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego.'But the discovered equivalence between the growth of the universe and complex networks strongly suggests that unexpectedly similar laws govern the dynamics of these very different complex systems,' Krioukov noted."
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scibri writes "Photographs of Einstein's brain taken shortly after his death, but never before analysed in detail, have now revealed that it had several unusual features, providing tantalizing clues about the neural basis of his extraordinary mental abilities. The most striking observation was 'the complexity and pattern of convolutions on certain parts of Einstein's cerebral cortex,' especially in the prefrontal cortex, and also parietal lobes and visual cortex. The prefrontal cortex is important for the kind of abstract thinking that Einstein would have needed for his famous thought experiments on the nature of space and time, such as imagining riding alongside a beam of light. The unusually complex pattern of convolutions there probably gave the region a larger-than-normal surface area, which may have contributed to his remarkable abilities."
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The startling majesty – and deceptive complexity – of Michael Benson’s space art can be traced back through a process he dubs “true color.” A multimedia artist, Benson is a man utterly fascinated with outer space (he points to 2001: A Space Odyssey as an inspiration for his interstellar works — works that so impressed 2001 author Arthur C. Clarke that the sci-fi titan agreed to write the foreword to one of Benson’s books), and he has fixed his talents on creating visions that break free of the confines of Earth, enabling viewers to behold the unseen wonders of the universe.
To encounter a Benson landscape is to be in awe of not only how he sees the universe, but also the ways in which he composes the never-ending celestial ballet. From the spidery volcanic fractures that scar the surface of Venus to the time-lapse flight path of a stray asteroid, the dizzying close-ups of the swirling “red spot” of Jupiter, the x-ray-filtered view of the sun’s surface and the rippling red dunes of Mars, Benson is a visual stylist with a gift for framing and focus. Apart from cutting-edge high-definition renderings of our solar system’s most familiar objects, he also routinely converts extra-terrestrial terrain into thrilling, abstract landscapes that seem positioned somewhere between the scientific and the avant-garde.
The cover of Planetfall: New Solar System Visions
The cover of Planetfall: New Solar System Visions
Some of his greatest achievements skew towards the hyper realistic; I have been following Benson’s work for years and still the image I remember most is a massive, intricately-detailed view of the surface of Io, one of Jupiter’s moons (slide 13 in the gallery above). Looming large in a print that renders the Io surface in a yellow-brownish hue, delineating the moon’s different terrains, Benson’s color scheme accentuates the dark volcanic calderas that dot the satellite’s surface. The final result is sharp, meticulous and magnificent. At first glimpse it’s a simple planetary object, but the closer your eye scans the terrain, the more you realize that Benson has somehow taken this imagery captured 400 million miles away and given us a front-row seat to consider the turbulent topography of this alien orb. Benson’s visions demand more than a single look; the longer one spends with his vast landscapes, considering the scale and scope, the more they facilitate a state of meditation.
Behind every one of these images, however, lies an intricate and involved photo editing process (watch the video of Benson’s method above). Benson typically begins each work by filtering through hundreds or thousands of raw images from space, made available to the public by NASA and the European Space Agency – photographs that have been taken by unmanned space probes flying throughout the solar system, rovers on Mars or humans aboard the International Space Station. Many of these photos come back to Earth as black and white composites, or as images created with only a few active color filters. Benson then sorts through the images in a hunt for something surprising, revealing or noteworthy. Once he’s found a subject of interest, he starts stitching together individual snapshots to create larger landscapes, and filtering these landscapes through his own color corrections to create a spectrum that approximates how these interstellar vistas would appear to the human eye.
In his latest published photo collection Planetfall: New Solar System Visions, now available from Abrams, Benson details the fine points of his processing techniques:
“The process of creating full-color images from black-and-white raw frames—and mosaic composites in which many such images are stitched together—can be quite complicated,” Benson writes. “In order for a full-color image to be created, the spacecraft needs to have taken at minimum two, but preferably three, individual photographs of a given subject, with each exposed through a different filter… ideally, those filters are red, green, and blue, in which case a composite color image can usually be created without too much trouble. But in practice, such spacecraft as the Cassini Orbiter or the Mars Exploration Rovers … have many different filters, which they use to record wavelengths of light well outside of the relatively narrow red, green and blue (RGB) zone of the electromagnetic spectrum that human eyes can see.”
Benson goes on to explain that he will often start working with images that are missing an essential filter — that ultraviolet and infrared filters have been used instead of color filters, meaning the composite image is lacking necessary information.
It is here where Benson has carved out an area of expertise, filling in that missing image information to add shape, scale and color to the planetary bodies he hopes to explore. The resulting visuals, as you can see above, are pristine and powerful glimpses of the furthest reaches of our solar system (and, in some of Benson’s other works, the very edges of the universe). With the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars in August, and its subsequent photographs of what appears to be Martian riverbeds, the world was once again reminded of the power of a single image transmitted back to Earth across millions of miles of open space. It’s a dizzying thing, to behold an alien world, and scanning through the portfolio of Michael Benson — a true “space odyssey” — is to experience this rush of discovery again and again.
Michael Benson’s new book Planetfall: New Solar System Visions, is now available from Abrams. Also featured above are images from Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes (Abrams, 2008). Images from Planetfall will be on display at New York’s Hasted Kraeutler Gallery in December 2012. To see more of Benson’s work, visit his web site.
Steven James Snyder is an Assistant Managing Editor at TIME.com.
In the past, debutante balls were opportunities for introducing noble daughters to high society. Photographer Olivia Harris discovers what London’s Queen Charlotte’s Ball means to the young girls of today.
Jo Longhurst has a CV longer than my arm (which is long) that includes seemingly hundreds of group and solo shows across the world, reproductions in numerous books and even a cheeky PhD from the Royal College of Art. All of which leads us to believe she’s an incredibly talented woman and this suspicion is confirmed by the sheer beauty of her work and the meticulous attitude she takes towards her practice.
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After NASA shut down the Space Shuttle Program, the remaining shuttles and replicas were divided among several cities, as museum displays. Over the past few weeks, two shuttles that never flew to space were transported by barge to their new homes. The Enterprise was sailed up the Hudson River to its new position aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid, part of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, and the shuttle replica named Explorer sailed from Florida to Houston, Texas, where it will be displayed at the Johnson Space Center. Images of these two journeys by sea are collected below. [22 photos]
Space Shuttle Enterprise is carried by barge underneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City, on June 3, 2012. Enterprise was on its way to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, where it will put on permanent display. (Michael Nagle/Getty Images)
NASA has released a new three-part composite image of 30 Doradus created to celebrate the Hubble telescope’s 22nd anniversary in orbit. It combines one image each from NASA’s great observatories; Chandra, Spitzer and Hubble. 30 Doradus is a large star-creating region in our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. Smack in the middle of 30 Doradus, thousands of stars are producing radiation and intense winds. Super hot gases from these winds and explosions are detected by the Chandra X-ray Observatory–here you can see these as blue. The Hubble image is green and shows the light of these huge stars and stages of star births. The Spitzer image can be seen in red, and shows cooler gas and dust formed by the powerful winds at the center.
Fifty years ago, NASA began a program called Project Gemini, developing deep space travel techniques and equipment to prepare for the upcoming Apollo program. Two unmanned and ten manned missions were flown, and astronauts and engineers accomplished hundreds of goals, including the first American spacewalk, a 14-day endurance test in orbit, space docking, and the highest-ever manned orbit at 1,369 km (850 mi). After the project ended in 1966, many Gemini astronauts brought their experiences with them as they went on to fly Apollo missions to the Moon. Collected here are remarkable images of Project Gemini half a century ago -- some beautiful, some technical, and a few surprisingly intimate. [41 photos]
NASA Astronaut Edward White floats in zero gravity of space northeast of Hawaii, on June 3, 1965, during the flight of Gemini IV. White is attached to his spacecraft by a 25-ft. umbilical line and a 23-ft. tether line,both wrapped in gold tape to form one cord. In his right hand he carries a Hand-Held Self-Maneuvering Unit. (NASA/JSC/ASU)