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Stellar shots in 'History of Space Photography' show

Old-time telescope

Great comet

Unprecedented view


Titanic lakes



A star is unborn

Moony minerals

Dust never sleeps

Mountains of Mars

Goodnight, Earth

Dark cloud

Lovely Venus

Delta blues (and reds)

Edifying photo


North America Nebula

Less ice on Iceland

Apollo gazes Earthward

"Good art has the power to change our perspective on things," Stephen Nowlin, director of the Williamson Gallery at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., recently told NBC4 News in L.A. "Even though we've known for over 400 years that the Earth is not the center of the universe, we still tend to slip back into that kind of 'Earth-centric' thinking."

A show organized by the Williamson Gallery, along with Art Center neighbor and NASA/Caltech affiliate the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, shakes us humans out of that mindset, and, simply, dazzles with the beauty of the cosmos.

"The History of Space Photography" features 150 images, selected by guest curator Jay Belloli and several consultants at JPL. Most are from the last 50 years or so, but some date back as far as the 19th century.

The exhibition wrapped up its inaugural showing at Art Center earlier in May, but it's scheduled to begin a tour of science museums in India this November, and will touch down at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in New York next year. (Space fanatics should get started on those travel arrangements now.)

The show divides the images into several categories -- shots of Earth from space, for example; shots of our solar system and its individual planets and star; shots of deep space -- and the pictures range from the first known photo of a telescope (a crude, 1839 shot) to a stunning color image of the Sun created by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory just a year and a half ago. They also include images that track the changing face of the Earth.

"Though we are really trying to push the boundaries of knowledge, it's also a way of showing the beauty that's inherent in the universe," JPL's Randii Wessen said of the research images produced by the Lab and other space-oriented organizations, in a comment to NBC4.

When you see a picture of the Helix Nebula shot from the Spitzer space telescope, it's hard not to be wowed by the grandeur and vastness of space (and of cosmic time). And when you see an image of the Mississippi River Delta captured by NASA's Terra satellite, or a shot of glacier melt in Iceland, it's hard not to reflect on the relative ephemeral nature of the small planet we call home.

The above image shows the Helix Nebula captured by the Spitzer space telescope, February 12, 2007.

Caption by / Photo by JPL/Williamson Gallery
Sir John Herschel took this earliest known photograph of a telescope, a 40-inch device owned by his father, Sir William Herschel, in September 1839. Both father and son were famous astronomers. Sir John Herschel named the new medium for creating permanent images of the world using lenses "photography."
Caption by / Photo by Courtesy Oxford Museum of the History of Science
David Gill's photograph of the Great Comet of 1882, November 14, 1882, shot from the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.
Caption by / Photo by Williamson Gallery/JPL
The first view of the Earth from the moon, photographed by Lunar Orbiter 1. The spacecraft was above a portion of the moon not visible from our planet, searching for a landing spot for the future man-on-the-moon mission. August 23, 1966.
Caption by / Photo by NASA
High-phase-angle Saturn image, from the Cassini mission, September 15, 2006.
Caption by / Photo by JPL
Lakes of liquid methane on Saturn's moon Titan, from the Cassini mission, July 22, 2006.
Caption by / Photo by JPL
This representative color photograph was taken of the Sun by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on March 30, 2010.
Caption by / Photo by NASA
A photograph of the farthest away and oldest galaxies, including one 12.8 billion light-years away, from Hubble Ultra Deep Field and Spitzer telescopes, 2007.
Caption by / Photo by JPL/Williamson Galley
Star's death in the Crab Nebula, as seen in a composite image by Hubble, Chandra, and Spitzer space telescopes.
Caption by / Photo by JPL/Williamson Gallery
An image of mineral composition of the moon from Moon Mineralogy Mapper, Chandrayaan 1. (Launched October 22, 2008. End of mission August 29, 2009.)
Caption by / Photo by Indian Space Research Organization
Dust clouds in the center of Reflection Nebula NGC 1333, shot from the Kitt Peak National Observatory.
Caption by / Photo by National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO)
This 360-degree view, called the "McMurdo" panorama, comes from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, 2006.
Caption by / Photo by NASA
The Earth at night, a composite of hundreds of pictures made by the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, 2001.
Caption by / Photo by Defense Meteorological Satellite Program
Uncataloged dark cloud in Scorpius, Australian Astronomical Observatory, 2000-2010.
Caption by / Photo by David Malin
The surface of Venus, from the Magellan mission, orbit August 10, 1990 to October 12, 1994.
Caption by / Photo by JPL
On May 24, 2010, the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA's Terra satellite captured this false-color, high-resolution view of the very tip of the Mississippi River Delta.
Caption by / Photo by NASA
Ocean eddies off the coast of New Zealand, October 25, 2009, taken by NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua Satellite.
Caption by / Photo by NASA
Opposing jets from supermassive black hole in galaxy Centaurus A by Chandra space telescope, 2008.
Caption by / Photo by NASA
North America Nebula from Spitzer space telescope, combining visible light with infrared. Visible light is shown as blue, and infrared light as green and red. February 10, 2011.
Caption by / Photo by JPL
You are looking at glacier melt on Iceland, from 1973 to 2000, in images created by the Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.
Caption by / Photo by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
Earth taken from Apollo 17, 1972.
Caption by / Photo by NASA
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