Kessler teaches art history at Stanford. This work, a revision of her dissertation, critically examines the aesthetics of the Hubble Space Telescope images. Kessler compares Hubble's nebula pictures with Romantic landscape art and early photographs depicting the American West. She explains that the raw Hubble images are delivered from the spacecraft as monochrome files. Scientists then use software to edit the images, deciding what colors to assign them and applying other changes using Photoshop. The Hubble images have come to define how we visualize the universe. The author discusses Hubble's images in the context of the sublime, especially as defined by Immanuel Kant, who saw it as a conflict between human senses and reason. Thus Hubble's pretty pictures are at once works of art and scientific objects. Kessler's very original work contains excellent analyses, but her prose is often soporific. Numerous Hubble pictures illustrate the book, complementing the author's descriptions. Verdict: This book will interest both art historians and scientists. After reading it, you'll never look at a Hubble image in the same way again.
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