Carina Nebula: Michael Benson

Art - Exhibit

Saturday, December 21, 2013 - Sunday, June 22, 2014

Jeppson Idea Lab

This Jeppson Idea Lab project introduces a photograph of the Carina Nebula printed exclusively for WAM and acquired for the collection in 2013. It represents a unique point of contact between contemporary art and science. One of the overriding questions provoked by viewing this image in an art museum is, When is data art? It is a question that is closely tied to the history of photography and the evolving role of technology in image production. While humans have been fascinated with the sky since prehistory, a vista with this level of detail has only been available to us quite recently. This seamless photographic mosaic combines the talents and imaginations of astronomers and engineers using both space and land-based telescopes with sophisticated cameras, and artist Michael Benson.

The Carina Nebula, an area of space about 10,000 light years away, is among the brightest parts of the Milky Way visible from Earth. It is an area teeming with new and dying stars  clouds of dust and gas, eroding dust pillars sculpted by radiation from powerful stars, and lobes of stellar material.

Working with archives primarily used by planetary scientists and astronomers, Bensons explorations are focused on aesthetic, not scientific discoveries. Taking raw image data acquired for research purposes, Benson edits, combines, composites, and repurposes it for his photography. Due to the limitations of our visible light spectrum, official image releases from the Hubble Space Telescope are frequently presented in representative colors. These colors are quite different from the actual hues humans would be able to perceive if looking upon the Carina Nebula themselves.

In order to better represent how the human eye might see the nebulaalbeit enhanced by the power of the telescope to gather vastly more light than our unassisted senses ever couldBenson has replaced the false-color information of the original Hubble image with true-color data derived from lower-resolution Earth-based observations. In this way, he retains the incomparable detail of the Hubble mosaic composite while enhancing Carina Nebulas color accuracy by utilizing the visible-light wavelength observations recorded by the European Southern Observatory between 1999 and 2003.

Cost: check website for musuem admission

Suggested Audiences:Elders, Adult, College, High School, Middle School, Elementary, Preschool, Toddler

Last Modified: February 7, 2014 at 4:02 PM


Powered by the Social Web - Bringing people together through Events, Places, & Common Interests


55 Salisbury Street, Worcester, MA 01609
(+1) 508-799-4406


Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-4pm
Third Thursdays until 8pm
For closing days and Shop, Café, and Library hours, see our Hours and Admission page.

WAM member sticker


When you become a Member of the Worcester Art Museum, you join a group of interesting and inquisitive people enjoying a number of great benefits.

Browse Membership levels, benefits and discounts