Stunning images of space from the Natural History Museum's Otherworlds exhibition

| 08 January 2016

Stunning images from our solar system as featured in a new Natural History Museum exhibition by artist, curator and writer Michael Benson, who has painstakingly processed data from NASA and ESA missions to assemble some remarkable photographs

Stormy Jupiter

a photo of round disc of a planet partly shrouded in darkness, with swirls of grey, blue and brown across its surface
Crescent Jupiter and Ganymede. Mosaic composite photograph. Cassini (January 10 2001)© Credit: NASA/JPL/Michael Benson, Kinetikon Pictures. Courtesy Flowers Gallery
In this study of the solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot appears as a churning dynamo, impeding the progress of the white clouds to its right and funnelling them into streaming tendrils below and to its left.

South is up in this view. Embedded in the south equatorial band, the Great Red Spot is actually a vast anticyclonic storm system three times the size of Earth that has been raging for at least 348 years.

Dark side of the rings

a photograph of black rings around the planet Saturn
Dark side of the rings. Mosaic composite photograph. Cassini (January 20 2007)© Credit: NASA/JPL/Michael Benson, Kinetikon Pictures. Courtesy Flowers Gallery
This spectacular view looks down on Saturn’s northern regions, with its pole still in the darkness of the northern hemisphere winter. The rings cast a band of shadow across the gas giant world.

Typhoon over Bay of Bengal

an aerial view of a large swirl of clouds over a land mass surrounded by sea
Typhoon over Bay of Bengal. Photograph. Terra (December 15 2003)© Jeff Schmaltz, Lucian Plesea, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team/NASA GSFC/Michael Benson, Kinetikon Pictures. Courtesy Flowers Gallery
The immense vortex of tropical Cyclone 03B slams into India’s east coast with wind speeds approaching 120 kilometres an hour. Below, the teardrop-shaped island of Sri Lanka is relatively cloud free.

Moonlight on the Adriatic

an aerial view of a coastline and sea with lights twinkling on land
Moonlight on the Adriatic. Mosaic composite photograph. ISS 023 crew (April 29 2010)© NASA JSC/Michael Benson, Kinetikon Pictures. Courtesy Flowers Gallery
In this luminous view of southern Europe, the Adriatic Sea, with its many islands, gleams in reflected moonlight. In the centre, the Italian peninsula extends into the Mediterranean Sea. To the lower right, Milan’s road network blazes. South is up.

Europa, an ice-covered ocean moon

a photo of the grey, ice-covered planet of Europa partially shrouded in darkness
Europa, an ice-covered ocean moon. Mosaic composite photograph, Galileo (March 29 1998)© NASA/JPL/Michael Benson, Kinetikon Pictures. Courtesy Flowers Gallery
Jumbled faults and curving ridges cover the face of Europa, one of the most enigmatic bodies in the solar system. Europa’s vast, ice-capped ocean is kept warm by the gravitational effects of Jupiter and its moons.

Antoniadi Crater near the lunar south pole

a black and white photograph of the surface of the moon with craters and ridges
Antoniadi Crater near the lunar south pole. Photograph. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (February 2 2014)© NASA GSFC/Arizona State University/Michael Benson, Kinetikon Pictures. Courtesy Flowers Gallery
A distinctive far-side crater, 143-kilometre-wide Antoniadi has an uplifted central peak, visible to the left, and a well-preserved rim three kilometres high. Antoniadi lies within the Aitken Basin, the deepest basin on the Moon. As a result, the floor of the smaller crater, visible just below centre, has the lowest elevation on the Moon.

Crescent Jupiter and Ganymede

a photo of Jupiter with grey and brown swirls and its moon Ganymede just visible orbiting nearby
Crescent Jupiter and Ganymede. Mosaic composite photograph. Cassini (January 10 2001)© NASA/JPL/Michael Benson, Kinetikon Pictures. Courtesy Flowers Gallery
Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede, seen here on the right, is the ninth-largest object in the solar system and is bigger than the planet Mercury. Like Europa, Ganymede’s surface is composed of water ice, and is thought to have a sub-surface ocean.

A Plutonian Haze

A photo of the planet Pluto with luminescent purple blue haze shimmering across its surface
A Plutonian Haze. Mosiac composite photograph. New Horizons (July 14 2015)© NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Michael Benson, Kinetikon Pictures. Courtesy Flowers Gallery
When NASA’s New Horizon’s spacecraft flew by Pluto in July 2015, a sense of astonishment was experienced by the mission’s scientists. Pluto contained a far more variegated surface than anyone had dared to hope for. And soon after the closest approach, it became clear that when back-lit by the Sun, the dwarf planet’s tenuous atmosphere was as blue as the skies of Earth.

Enceladus vents water into space

a photo of a white planet Enceladus with a mist of water rising from its surface
Enceladus vents water into space. Mosaic composite photograph. Cassini, 25 December 2009© NASA/JPL/Caltech/Michael Benson, Kinetikon Pictures, courtesy of Flowers Gallery
Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth largest moon, erupts a vast spray of water into space from its southern polar region. The water immediately freezes. The moon is lit by the Sun on the left, and backlit by the reflecting surface of its parent planet to the right (not in this photograph).

A Warming Comet

a photo of an S-shaped comet falling through the darkness of space
A Warming Comet. Rosetta (July 7 2015)© ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM–CC BY-SA IGO 3.0/Michael Benson, Kinetikon Pictures. Courtesy Flowers Gallery
The oddly twin-lobed Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko vents gas and dust about a month before perihelion – the closest point to the Sun along its orbit. Outflows and jets of cometary material can be seen as the comet heats up.

  • Otherworlds: Visions of our Solar System by Michael Benson is at the Natural History Museum from January 22 until May 15 2016.
  • The exhibition also features a soundscape of original music by Brian Eno.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Three places to explore space in the UK

at the Science Museum until March 7 2016 tells the remarkable story of Russian scientific and technological ingenuity that kick-started the space age via a unique collection of space artefacts, many of which have never before been seen either outside Russia. EVENT482918

National Space Centre, Leicester, is UK's largest attraction dedicated to space and promises hours of breathtaking discovery and interactive fun. And if you want to see the whole universe close-up, take a seat in the high-tech full domed Space Theatre and prepare to be amazed.

The Royal Observatory Greenwich, London’s only planetarium where you can explore the planets and your place in the universe while standing on the historic Prime Meridian of the World,  Greenwich Mean Time.

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