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SITES exhibition at Cal U - NewsSITES exhibition at Cal U - News


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Posted on February 14, 2011

The views of the solar system that one can see while standing here on Earth are often impressive, if not mind-blowing. But from the inner solar system to its outer reaches, the closer and more detailed views of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the other planets that have been achieved during the Space Age show unparalleled beauty and visions difficult to fathom.

This otherworldly view, collected during 40 years of robotic space missions and then processed into breathtaking images, is the subject of the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition Beyond: Visions of Planetary Landscapes, on display from Feb. 25 to April 12 in the Manderino Gallery.

The exhibit’s astonishing views of the solar system’s planets and their moons come primarily from NASA and European Space Agency missions. Artist Michael Benson mines planetary databases for his source material, then pulls together the images to create seamless photographs of unprecedented clarity and realism. Throughout the process, Benson strives to stay true to the natural and breathtaking reality of space.

“My goal was to locate, digitally process and print some of the most extraordinary sights ever captured,” Benson says.

Beyond shows that familiar geological formations and the atmospheric disturbances that take place on Earth also can be found on neighboring planets: the erupting volcanoes of Sicily find their counterpart in the lava eruptions of Jupiter’s moon Io; the moon’s deep craters are displayed alongside the “cantaloupe” terrain of Neptune’s moon Triton; the stormy clouds of Greenland can be seen alongside the “dust devils” of Mars. The show’s compositions include rare pictures of the sand dunes on Mars, storms on Neptune and the fiery eruptions of the sun.

Beyond: Visions of Planetary Landscapes was created by Michael Benson and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play.

About the Artist
Michael Benson is a journalist and award-winning filmmaker (Predictions of Fire, 1995) whose work has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic and The Washington Post, among many other publications. Benson’s award-winning book Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes (Abrams, 2003) includes a forward by science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. A paperback edition of the book was released in 2008.

See the Exhibition at Cal U
All SITES exhibitions at Cal U are open to the public. Gallery hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday; 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday; 8 a.m.-noon Friday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday; and 2-6 p.m. Sunday. To discuss group tours or field trips, call exhibitions coordinator Walter Czekaj at 724-938-5244 or send e-mail to