Lyne Starling Trimble Public Lecture - Hubble Space Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime

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Thursday, 7 May 2020
Live Webcast

Elizabeth A. Kessler

Hubble Space Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime

Presented by Dr. Elizabeth A. Kessler

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Talk: 3:30 p.m. EDT

Live Webcast





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For 30-years, the Hubble Space Telescope images have depicted the cosmos as vividly colored and incredible detailed. These impressive, dynamic spaces—the now familiar views of glittering galaxies,  and ethereal nebulae—are scientifically valid representations based on data, and they also evoke a powerful aesthetic response. They encourage us to see the universe as sublime. This talk will situate the Hubble images within a longer history of the sublime, with a focus on their relationship to 19th century paintings and photographs of the American West, as well as speak to how Hubble images—and astronomical images more generally—encourage us to see the cosmos as sublime, but also tame or contain it.


Elizabeth A. Kessler’s research focuses on 20th and 21st century American visual culture, in particular the place of aesthetics, images, and media in astronomy. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and she has been awarded the SHOT-NASA History of Space Technology Fellowship, as well as fellowships from Stanford University and the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. Her book, Picturing the Cosmos: Hubble Space Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime, on the aesthetics of deep space images, was published in 2012 by University of Minnesota Press. Currently, she is a lecturer in American Studies at Stanford University.


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