Credit: NASA JPL/Michael Benson, Kinetikon, courtesy of Flowers Gallery’

NHM Otherworlds – Voyage our Solar System in a new photography exhibition at the Natural History Museum

Embark on a stunning journey through space with Otherworlds: Visions of our Solar System, a new photographic exhibition at the Natural History Museum, running from 22 January until 15 May 2016.

The 77 composite images represent a joining together of art and science. Artist, curator and writer Michael Benson painstakingly processes data from NASA and ESA missions to assemble the photographs for display.

Museum researchers have partnered with Benson to bring additional science background to the images. An audio commentary complements the striking visuals with insights into the work of leading Museum scientists such as Dr Joe Michalski, who is investigating the geological processes that shaped Mars to better understand the early life of our own planet.

Michael Benson said: “In the past 60 years, an audacious, utterly consequential story has unfolded. Combining rocket science with the innate human drive to explore, after millennia of speculation about the planets, the first expeditions to the solar system’s far-flung worlds have taken place. Through the agency of a small squadron of increasingly sophisticated robotic spacecraft, we’ve seen Earth dwindle to the size of a pearl, and then a pixel, as we voyaged far beyond any place ever directly visited by human beings.”

Understanding how these landscapes were formed is a part of the Museum’s planetary science research, using our celestial neighbours to understand the early formation of Earth, how the solar system first began and what life is like on other planets. Researchers refer to the Museum’s world-leading collection of 5000 meteorites in their work, and contribute to remote-sensing research with colleagues at NASA and ESA, including the current Rosetta mission.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Michael Benson to bring these images to London coinciding with Tim Peake’s Principia mission to the International Space Station,” said Sir Michael Dixon, director of the Natural History Museum.

“These images reframe how we see our Solar System, created from the very same data that Museum scientists use to understand the 4.5 billion year history of our planet and life on it.”
The exhibition also features a soundscape of original music by Brian Eno.

Eno said: “Space is silent. It’s a vacuum. In fact we can’t really experience space directly at all: even those few humans who’ve been out there have done so inside precarious cocoons. So we’ve become used to translating our feelings and understandings about space into metaphors, mental playgrounds where we’re allowed to imagine how it could be. That process of imagining is unanchored to experience, unconfined by any demand other than it be in some way true to our feelings. Making music about space, then, is sheer fantasy, or perhaps sheer metaphor.”


Otherworlds: Visions of our Solar System by Michael Benson opens at the Natural History Museum 22 January and runs to 15 May, 2016 (Adult £9.90, child and concession £5.40, family £26.10. Free for Members, Patrons and children under four).


(Image Credit: NASA JPL/Michael Benson, Kinetikon Pictures courtesy Flowers Gallery.)


(from a press release)