July 25, 2010

A Comment on Light Pollution

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I might contribute to the genre of astronomy art without having to go out and buy a ton of expensive equipment just to take a photo that looks only half as good as what Hubble has already done, or illustrating something in the new-age vein: cliche and kitschy as so much hand rendered astro art can be. I don't really mean to criticize other's contributions, but I am just simply not that moved by most of what is already out there--my voice needs to be different.

In general I tend to enjoy viewing astro photography much more than I do the hand-done works I've seen so far. The images returned from the Cassini mission in particular are sublime. I am mesmerized by the interplay of light and shadow...the simplicity of geometric forms combined with the stunning reality of what is portrayed...and these images were not even originally intended to be art!

One of the coolest images I've come across lately is one taken by the ESA's spacecraft Rosetta. This unlikely portrait features the asteroid Luticia haunted by the distant apparition of the ringed giant, Saturn. It is an unforgettable visual spectacle on it's own, but the photo's intrigue is increased when one considers the vast distance between these two wanderers. It is a striking illustration of interplanetary emptiness as well as a powerful illusion of percieved intimacy.

I've attempted sketches of the moon, Jupiter, and the Orion Nebula (as viewed through a C8 telescope...thus the backwards images) with somewhat pleasing results, but while I've enjoyed working on these observational drawings, they don't really strike me as legitimately "artistic" or "creative".

Tonight I tried something slightly different. This drawing is an attempt to mourn the continuing loss of our dark skies. I wonder how many people have never been able to see the glow of the milky way because the nearest darkness is hours away. In most urban areas only a smattering of the brightest stars are visible above the shine and smog. This is a tragic loss with consequences ranging from emotional, to physical, and possibly intellectual as fewer people are able to experience firsthand the rhythms in the heavens or have their imaginations stirred by the beckoning of the cosmos.

Where's a dark ranger when you need one?

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