The Aesthetics of Astronomy

Arcand, Kimberly

Researchers explore the Universe through a fleet of space-based telescopes, as well as major facilities on the ground, which cover the entire electromagnetic spectrum. The release of science results from these different types of light poses major questions about the dissemination and communication of that knowledge including: how do non-experts (i.e., the public) perceive these images? In 2008, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory began a unique research study – dubbed the Aesthetics & Astronomy (A&A) project – to examine the public’s perception of multi-wavelength astronomical imagery and the effects of the scientific and artistic choices in processing astronomical data. This talk will provide an overview of the results of the preliminary 2008 A&A study and will conclude with a synopsis of the direction of the ongoing 2010 study.

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