As always, people here get excited when an exhibition, usually several years in the making, is nearing completion. I imagine that it's something akin to sending a child off to college. Even though they put you through the ringer on a daily basis, it's a bit hard to let them go when it's finally time.
But, alas, SITES project director Devra Wexler dropped off the last two prints for Beyond: Visions of Planetary Landscapes at the framer's shop yesterday. We did a final pass over the .pdfs of the exhibition panels on Wednesday, looking one last time for grammatical inconsistencies and to ensure that the language was as strong and compelling as the images themselves. All the planets must have been properly aligned as almost everything was perfect.
Of course, it's easy when you're working with these kinds of images--so amazing that they make you wish you paid more attention in Astronomy 101. The man behind these interstellar visions is Michael Benson, an artist and filmmaker who spent years scouring NASA's archives for raw material with which to work. Benson essentially took stills that the space probes had shot on various missions (going back some 40 years) and collaged them together, creating seamless alien landscapes and panoramas. From the blazing inferno at the center of our solar system to the terrestrial and gaseous planets and their bizarre moons, Benson makes these far-away places appear tangible and real. It's art and science and a great deal of patience as some of the completed images took months for him to assemble. These are the kinds of images that inspire 5th graders to be astronauts and astronomers. And for the rest of us, Benson's planetary pictures make us realize that there is a beautiful sense of continuity in our wondrous solar system.
Beyond starts its national tour in March 2008 at the Monmouth Museum in Lincroft, NJ. It travels until 2011. Check the schedule to see if Beyond will make a stop in your hometown.