Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5

Contents

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pp. v-vi

Abbreviations

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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction. Astronomy's Romantic Landscapes

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pp. 1-18

A dark cloud against a background of orange and blue reaches upward, stretching nearly to the top of the frame that contains it. Brightly backlit at its top and outlined throughout with a soft glow, the majesty and grace of the sinuous shape claim the viewer’s attention (Figure 1). ...

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1. The Astronomical Sublime and the American West

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pp. 19-68

For much of human history the visual experience of the heavens remained the same, dependent entirely on naked perception. Although light pollution has dimmed the brilliance of the stars, a look upward on a dark night reenacts this ancient and unmediated vision in which one sees white dots against a black sky, ...

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2. Ambivalent Astronomers and the Embrace of Hubble Images

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pp. 69-126

Based on the large number of Hubble images and their widespread circulation, it is easy to assume that their production was the telescope’s primary purpose. The elements fundamental to astronomical observing since the late nineteenth century— light, telescopes, and cameras—support such a conclusion. ...

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3. Translating Data into Pretty Pictures

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pp. 127-174

How do Hubble images represent the cosmos? In chapter 2, I argued that they are more than pretty pictures, and in fact have scientific and aesthetic value. I have referred several times to their status as digital images, and I explained very briefly how that can affect their appearance. ...

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4. From Unknown Frontiers to Familiar Places

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pp. 175-228

Astronomers hold complex attitudes toward images, and they have carefully crafted the images from the Hubble Space Telescope in a manner that satisfies their need for a scientifically valid representation of the data as well as their desire to evoke a particular aesthetic response. ...

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Epilogue. A Very Distant and Peaceful Star

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pp. 229-231

As way of closing, I would like to consider a short story by the writer and chemist Primo Levi. “A Tranquil Star” is, as its author suggests, “a fable that awakens echoes, and in which each of us can perceive distant reflections of himself and of the human race.”1 In a few concise pages, Levi tells the tale of a very distant and peaceful star around which several planets orbit. ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 232-234

This book has been many years in the making, and I am grateful to all those who helped me along the way. It began as my dissertation in the History of Culture program at the University of Chicago, where I was encouraged and influenced by a number of professors, especially W. J. T. Mitchell, Robert S. Nelson, and Adrian Johns. ...

Notes

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pp. 235-255

Bibliography

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pp. 256-266

Index

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pp. 267-279

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About the Author

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pp. 289-289

Elizabeth A. Kessler teaches at Stanford University. She has been awarded fellowships by the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum and Stanford University.