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WestLicht Gallery in Vienna offers a unique overview of the history of space photography
US art curator Jay Belloli poses in front of a picture of the Univers during the presentation of the "Zero Gravity, the History of Space Photography" exhibition at the Westlicht Gallery in Vienna. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN.

VIENNA.- WestLicht explores the infinite expanses of space. Featuring 150 spectacular photographs, the exhibition gives a unique overview of the history of space photography: from early 19th century black-and-white images of passing comets to the first photograph of Earth before the black-velvet background of the universe, all the way to the colour-drenched images delivered by modern high-resolution telescopes from the depths of our galaxy.

In unheard-of clarity, Zero Gravity. The History of Space Photography shows the mighty Saturn and its rings; the spacecraft “Galileo” and “Voyager 2” were able to transmit sensational images of Jupiter, the largest planet of our solar system, back to Earth; and of course every visitor may search for extraterrestrial life in the numerous images of the red planet Mars.

However, the gaze travels deeper into the infinity of space: stars and far-flung planetary systems, galaxies, star nebulae, supernovas and even black holes, pulsars and quasars – they all convey a fascinating impression of the unimaginable dimensions of the universe.

Since the dawn of human consciousness, mankind has been staring in wonder at the cosmos. Early civilizations performed naked-eye observations of the night sky; the development of the telescope in the 17th century allowed scientists like Galileo Galilei to learn in increasing detail what wonderful objects the heavens contained. The invention of photography in the 1830s soon allowed the creation of images, preserving scientific observations and enabling them to be shared with others.

The exhibition also traces the impressive technical progress made in the observation of the universe and celestial objects. Space photography has long progressed from ground-based telescopes to space-based images. Images taken in different wavelengths, from X-rays to radio waves, enable us to make visible what would otherwise remain hidden to our eyes. All this has resulted in important new insights into the nature of our planet Earth, its place in the solar system and indeed in the universe itself.

Curated by Jay Belloli for California/International Arts Foundation, Los Angeles, California

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