Physical Sciences Drift 25, Rm. 101 Organized Session
24 Jul 2019 04:00 PM - 06:00 PM(Europe/Amsterdam)
20190724T1600 20190724T1800 Europe/Amsterdam Imag(in)ing Space: Fidelity and Artistic License in Pursuit of the Heavens

From the late-19th century to the early 21st century, space and planetary imaging has evolved along with the introduction of new technologies/techniques and new disciplines in science, engineering, art, and design. The 19th century astronomical artists and illustrators could hardly anticipate the Hollywood matte painting techniques that would be brought to bear on planetary imaging in the mid-20th century. Likewise, the artists of the early Space Age would feel out of place in the 3D computer visualization labs of today, where images of newly discovered exoplanets are rendered for public consumption. Even with these differences, however, there has been a constant interplay between science and art -- between "real data" and artistic imagination -- that defies a rigid distinction between scientific object and human observer, not to mention that between the work of the scientists and artists. The papers in this session explore this history of imaging and imagining the planets using three examples: the first explores the chromolithographic prints of the artist-turned-astronomer, Etienne Trouvelot; the second examines the artistic and cinematic conventions used by Chesley Bonestell, the leading space artist of the American Space Age; and the third addresses the emergence of digital art and computer visualization and its intersection with planetary exploration; the final paper looks at how the future was imagined in more fanciful illustrations from science fiction and interrogates the relationship between visualization and the cultural construction of the meaning of space exploration.

Organized by Matthew Shindell

Drift 25, Rm. 101 History of Science Society 2019 meeting@hssonline.org

From the late-19th century to the early 21st century, space and planetary imaging has evolved along with the introduction of new technologies/techniques and new disciplines in science, engineering, art, and design. The 19th century astronomical artists and illustrators could hardly anticipate the Hollywood matte painting techniques that would be brought to bear on planetary imaging in the mid-20th century. Likewise, the artists of the early Space Age would feel out of place in the 3D computer visualization labs of today, where images of newly discovered exoplanets are rendered for public consumption. Even with these differences, however, there has been a constant interplay between science and art -- between "real data" and artistic imagination -- that defies a rigid distinction between scientific object and human observer, not to mention that between the work of the scientists and artists. The papers in this session explore this history of imaging and imagining the planets using three examples: the first explores the chromolithographic prints of the artist-turned-astronomer, Etienne Trouvelot; the second examines the artistic and cinematic conventions used by Chesley Bonestell, the leading space artist of the American Space Age; and the third addresses the emergence of digital art and computer visualization and its intersection with planetary exploration; the final paper looks at how the future was imagined in more fanciful illustrations from science fiction and interrogates the relationship between visualization and the cultural construction of the meaning of space exploration.

Organized by Matthew Shindell

With "Scrupulous Fidelity" and "Majestic Beauty": The Science and Art of E. L. Trouvelot’s Astronomical Drawings (1882)View Abstract
Organized Session 04:00 PM - 04:30 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 14:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 14:30:00 UTC
Étienne Léopold Trouvelot’s portfolio of fifteen large-scale chromolithographic prints, published by Charles Scribner’s Sons to accompany Trouvelot’s Astronomical Drawings Manual (1882), were among the most influential and innovative images of astronomical phenomena produced at the end of the nineteenth century. The works effectively blurred the boundaries between art and science, receiving accolades from both professional artistic and scientific communities as well as attracting a wide public audience. Trouvelot, a French-born, Boston-based artist and amateur-turned-professional scientist, based the prints on sketches of cosmic forms that he made over the course of nearly two decades using high-powered telescopes at Harvard University, the University of Virginia, and the U.S. Naval Observatory. According to the artist, the 1882 portfolio aimed to present such forms with “scrupulous fidelity and accuracy,” while also conveying to the viewer something of “the majestic beauty and radiance of celestial objects.” Produced during a period in which photography was quickly becoming the dominant medium for astronomical imagery, Trouvelot argued forcefully against the popular assumption that photographic views of celestial phenomena were more objective or of greater scientific value than his graphic—and often quite abstract—representations. Using Trouvelot’s work as a case study, this paper examines the roles that artistic imagination and invention played in shaping scientific knowledge during the late nineteenth century and investigates the limitations that artistic media and technologies of vision imposed on such processes.
Presenters
LB
Lacey Baradel
Independent Scholar
The Moon as It Should Have Been: Chesley Bonestell and the Pre-Apollo Lunar LandscapeView Abstract
Organized Session 04:30 PM - 05:00 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 14:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 15:00:00 UTC
Even by the late 1950s, the easiest way to produce a clear image of outer-space was to have someone paint it by hand. In March of 1957, this was exactly how the Boston Science Museum presented visitors with a new view of the lunar surface; installed in the Astronomical Exhibits lobby in front of the Hayden Planetarium, a sweeping ten-by-forty foot mural immersed visitors in a detailed recreation of the Moon’s topography. The mural was painted by America’s leading space illustrator, Chesley Bonestell, whose collaborations with well-known scientists lent his paintings a singular degree of technical credibility. However, the mural’s installation in the Boston Science Museum as a “scientific” view of the Moon would only temporarily be the case. In 1969, Apollo astronauts landed on the surface of the Moon and produced photographs that countered the dramatic topography described in the mural. This paper explores the conventions that helped the painting read as an authoritative view of the lunar surface in the pre-Apollo period, and the post-Apollo breakdown of these legitimizing elements. What functioned as an empirical representation of the Moon in 1957 was by 1969 recast as an artistic interpretation. Despite this revision, Chesley Bonestell’s depiction of the Moon’s surface was defended as scientific by some of his most famous contemporaries. I explore how Bonestell’s biography was edited to support claims about the empiricism of his work, and why this was useful to the scientists with which he collaborated.
Presenters Lois Rosson
UC Berkeley
Imaging the Planets in 3D: The Introduction of Computer Art at NASA's Jet Propulsion LaboratoryView Abstract
Organized Session 05:00 PM - 05:30 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 15:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 15:30:00 UTC
In 1977, a pair of unmanned spacecraft built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), launched on a mission to explore the outer solar system. As the spacecraft arced toward Jupiter, JPL’s team of imaging scientists prepared to receive and shape data collected by Voyager's scientific instruments into high-resolution photographic images. A second team of young computer scientists and artists began a parallel project—creating computer-generated films simulating the spacecraft’s journeys. The Computer Graphics Laboratory (CGL), headed by manager Robert Holzman, included a newly-graduated computer-graphics researcher, 2 novice systems programmers, and an artist-in-residence. This paper explores the introduction of 3D computer graphics and computer art to NASA at a transitional moment in astronomy—the born-digital era, characterized by a decisive shift from earlier, photographic techniques to real-time, digital collection of data (McCray, 2014). The CGL mixed image data with 3D simulation in a cinematic hybrid that was fascinating to journalists, the public and to writers and filmmakers from nearby Hollywood. 3D computer graphics intervened in scientific observation by shifting the point of view, moving the narrative backward and forward in time, or simulating future events. While computer-assisted image processing was a well-developed concept at NASA/JPL by 1977, computer graphics and computer art were both in their infancy. Visitors to the CGL saw new views of the heavens unfold through animation and art, mediated by the computer, as boundaries blurred between image processing and artistic interpretation, as well as between machinic and human vision.
Presenters
RP
Rebecca Perry
Independent Scholar
The Future as We've Shown It: The Human Future in Space as Seen in Science FictionView Abstract
Organized Session 05:30 PM - 06:00 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 15:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 16:00:00 UTC
Historians of the Space Age have pointed to the importance of space popularization, including the work of space illustrators like Chesley Bonestell and his contemporary science fiction authors and filmmakers, in selling a space future to the American public. But what was this future, and who was allowed/expected to participate in it? If space was the next frontier, who would be the pioneers? And what alternative visions of space and the human future in space were available? Moreover, why has the field of space history tended to focus unreflexively on the white producers and consumers of space culture? This paper examines multiple visions of the future, and futurist images, to attempt to answer these questions. Going outside of the traditionally defined space literary cannon, this paper also looks at Latino- and Afrofuturist images in an effort to expand our notion of the cultural meaning and value(s) of American space activity and exploration.
Presenters Matthew Shindell
Smithsonian National Air And Space Museum
Independent scholar
UC Berkeley
Independent scholar
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum
University Alberto Hurtado
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