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Michael Benson’s Otherworlds: Visions of our Solar System

Spectacular show of planetary images opens at Canadian Museum of Nature

Laura Sutin © Canadian Museum of Nature.

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Michael Benson by his work, Earth and Moon.

OTTAWA, May 15, 2019 – Get ready to feast your eyes upon out-of-this-world images that will launch you on an interplanetary voyage. A North-American premiere, Michael Benson’s Otherworlds: Visions of our Solar System runs from May 17 until September 2 at the Canadian Museum of Nature. This travelling exhibition by American artist and writer Michael Benson features 41 stunning, high-resolution planetary images.

Otherworlds embodies the symbiosis between art and science. Benson, who has long been fascinated with deep space missions, used raw image data from NASA and the European Space Agency. He has spent countless hours processing them, using techniques such as compositing to add colour, and mosaicking to obtain extremely high resolution.

Among the amazing works visitors will see include Jupiter and its large moons, a view of Saturn’s night side with sunlight reflecting off its rings, a beautiful blue “halo” surrounding Pluto (see thumbnail above), as well as awe-inspiring landscapes of the Earth’s moon and of Mars, to name a few.

Otherworlds makes the case that the visual legacy of more than five decades of solar system exploration constitutes an important chapter in the history of photography, as much as it belongs to the history of science,” says Michael Benson. “It’s also about positioning us within a far wider frame. In it we see our home planet in its proper context, as part of an archipelago of turning worlds.

“This captivating show is the first of several moon-related exhibits and activities that the museum is hosting this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing”, says Meg Beckel, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature. “At the end of June, our visitors will also be able to see a real moon rock from the last time humans set foot there, as well as an amazingly accurate 7-metre recreation of the moon that will hang in our Queens’ Lantern.”

The presentation of Michael Benson’s Otherworlds at the Canadian Museum of Nature is supported by the United States Embassy in Ottawa. Accompanying the exhibition is a soundscape called “Deep Space,” produced specifically for Otherworlds by British ambient-music composer Brian Eno.  

Otherworlds captures the awe-inspiring beauty of our solar system, transporting viewers to corners of our universe otherwise untouched by human space exploration,” said U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft. “The United States Embassy is proud to support the exhibit as part of our celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. I hope it inspires young Canadians and Americans to continue our countries’ impressive legacies of space collaboration and scientific discovery to reach the next great frontier together.”  

Benson’s primary motivation with his space-themed exhibitions is to create images of subjects currently beyond direct human experience. In effect, he is working with raw images from the most far-flung camera systems in history – those borne to the far corners of the Solar System by robotic spacecraft.

In the 1990s, Benson began using his computer to access NASA’s public-domain image data from its interplanetary probes, which has informed his work to this day. “I go into their archives looking for a different type of discovery than what scientists look for,” he explains. “Scientists are looking for empirical verification of their various theories, for example concerning the rings of Saturn or the turbulent atmosphere of Jupiter. I’m looking for another order of finding, one aesthetic in nature.”

Michael Benson’s Otherworlds has previously appeared in various leading European museums, including the Natural History Museums in London and Vienna, as well as the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, Australia. After Ottawa, the exhibition travels to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum.

Access to Otherworlds is included with regular museum admission. The Museum is located at 240 McLeod Street (at Metcalfe St.), Ottawa. Visit nature.ca for hours and fees. Look for the hashtag #MoonattheMuseum on the Museum’s social media channels: Twitter (@museumofnature) and Instagram (museumofnature). Follow the Museum on facebook.com/Canadianmuseumofnature.

About Michael Benson
Michael Benson is a Fellow of the New York Institute of the Humanities, a recent Visiting Scholar at the Center for Bits and Atoms in the MIT Media Lab, and a Weizmann Institute of Science Advocate for Curiosity. His latest of seven books is Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece, published in April 2018. For more on his work, see michael-benson.com.

About the Canadian Museum of Nature
Saving the world through evidence, knowledge, and inspiration! The Canadian Museum of Nature is Canada's national museum of natural history and natural sciences. The museum provides evidence-based insights, inspiring experiences and meaningful engagement with nature's past, present and future. It achieves this through scientific research, a 14.6 million specimen collection, education programs, signature and travelling exhibitions, and a dynamic web site, nature.ca.

Images available upon request.

Media relations contacts:

Laura Sutin, Media Relations
Canadian Museum of Nature
613.698.7142
lsutin@nature.ca

Dan Smythe, Media Relations
Canadian Museum of Nature
613.566.4781; 613.698.9253 (cell)
dsmythe@nature.ca