Within art's orbit

A Hubble retrospective - the skies as you've never seen them before. By Charles Arthur

Rather as Garry Kasparov found a worthy, if nonsentient chess opponent in the IBM computer Deep Blue, the wave of young artists rejecting oil painting in favour of digital manipulation have some serious competition from the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. Today an exhibition opens at the Blue Gallery in London, showing a number of HST images blown up to more than a square metre. The attraction for gallery visitors lies just as much in their abstract form as their scientific content.

The collection of 13 images has been chosen from the hundreds taken by the HST. There is also a parallel exhibition of other HST images running at the Science Museum, in South Kensington, so that those who wish to take their fill of the abstract nature of the universe will find plenty to occupy them. As Arthur C Clarke, the famous British science-fiction writer, comments in a note to accompany the gallery exhibition, "First look and enjoy; later think about the implications."

But those unable or unwilling to travel to London will still find many of the images reproduced in high quality, with explanatory text in the book Universe in Focus: the story of the Hubble Telescope by Stuart Clark. This includes a history of the HST, as well as useful comparisons of images taken from the ground, and before and after its repair in December 1993. Hubble is now working near the theoretical limits of its instruments: we are seeing the universe, both near and distant, in more detail than ever before. And if any scientist is tempted to think that it lowers such work to display it as "art", it's worth reflecting that during the month that it lasts, the Blue Gallery's exhibition expects to draw 10 times more people than usual every dayn

The Blue Gallery is at 93 Walton St, London SW3. The exhibition runs until 19 July, with a parallel exhibition at the Science Museum.

"Universe in Focus: the story of the Hubble Telescope" by Stuart Clark is priced pounds 16.99 from Cassell, ISBN 0-304-34945-3.

The methane atmosphere of Neptune (left) absorbs red and infrared light, leading it to appear blue in this pair of images showing the weather on its opposite hemispheres. Clouds raised above most of the methane appear white, while the very highest clouds are yellow-red (the top of the right image). The green belt towards the south shows an area where the atmosphere absorbs blue light. The two images were taken over one rotation of Neptune, lasting just over 16 hours.

All photographs: Nasa

A sequence of 10 false-colour images of Saturn and its rings (right- hand page) shows a number of the gas giant's small moons. The images are paired, left and right. Note that a pair of stars passes behind the rings during the sequence, becoming visible on their own in the ninth frame. In the rest of the sequence, the moons Dione, Pandora, Prometheus, Mimas, Rhea and Epimetheus all emerge from behind the ring before disappearing again during the orbit. The pictures were taken by Hubble as it orbited the Earth, taking one pair every 97 minutes.

False colours can be useful. The rings around Uranus are not really white, but as black as charcoal. This infrared image, viewing the planet from its south pole, shows three layers of Uranus's atmosphere, composed of hydrogen and methane. The effect of the imaging is like looking at the edge of a soap bubble. The deepest layer is the blue, near the top, showing a clear atmosphere; the next layer is the yellow one, a methane- hydrogen haze. The pink ring is high-altitude haze around the planet's equator.

The Hubble Deep Field is a look as far away as seems possible: to the visible horizon of the universe. A number of the distant galaxies here are about 13 billion light years away, and so faint that they are nearly four billion times dimmer than can be seen with human vision. This true-colour image was built up from 276 separate exposures over 10 days. Its value to astronomers is in the clues it contains about the way that galaxies and stars form.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links