The Universe is an infinitely beautiful place

The universe is an infinitely beautiful place. Photographer Michael Benson’s exhibit ‘Beyond: Visions of Our Solar System,’ now at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., captures that beauty in ways never before seen. In a series of 148 photographs, Benson shows off Earth, the moon and our neighboring planets in ways humankind might see them, as the New York Times puts it, if only we were close enough. In this first picture we see an erupting prominence. Prominences are huge clouds of relatively cool, dense plasma suspended in the Sun’s hot, thin corona. Like this large, twirling prominence, they can sometimes erupt and escape the Sun’s atmosphere. SOHO, January 18, 2000

(Photo Credit: SOHO – ESA and NASA; Kinetikon Pictures)

The Crescent Earth: (beyondpics) Reflected sunlight glows through the clouds over the far South Pacific. Part of South America and Antarctica are visible though the clouds. This image was taken from 217,500 miles away, or almost the distance to the Moon. Rosetta, November 13, 2009 (Photo Credit: ESA; MPS for OSIRIS Team; MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA; Kinetikon Pictures)

The Mediterranean Sea: (beyondpics) Sahara dust blows across the Mediterranean towards Italy. Below it, smoke from forest fires in the Balkans extends in the opposite direction, across the Southern Adriatic Sea. OrbView 2, August 22, 2000 Photo Credit: SeaWiFS Project; NASA; Orbimage; Kinetikon Pictures

The Great Lakes: (beyondpics) The Great Lakes contain about 22 percent of the Earth’s supply of fresh water. In this eastward view, the East Coast of the United States can be seen, including Long Island and Cape Cod, can be seen to the right. OrbView 2, April 24, 1999

(Photo Credit: SeaWiFS Project; NASA; Orbimage; Kinetikon Pictures)

Earth Over the Moon’s South Pole: (beyondpics) A deep crater in perpetual shadow, Shackleton Crater (the circular feature to the lower right) may contain deposits of frozen water. In late 2009, NASA confirmed the presence of water depositsice in the permanently shadowed craters of the lunar South Pole. When humanity establishes a permanent moon Moon base, it may well be in this region. High definition video image. Kaguya, December 4, 2007

(Photo Credit: JAXA, the Japanese Space Exploration Agency; Kinetikon Pictures)

Mare Orientale: (beyondpics) The Moon’s vast Mare Orientale impact crater is 200 miles wide, one of the largest in the Solar System. The outermost circle of the crater is the Cordillera Mountain scarp, a line of cliffs about 560 miles wide. At 3 1/2 miles high in places, these are the highest mountains on the Moon.

Lunar Orbiter 5, August 18, 1967 (Photo Credit: NASA RPIF; Kinetikon Pictures)

Mountains Around the Sea of Tranquility: (beyondpics) Mare Tranquillitatis is where humans first landed on the Moon on, July 20, 1969. Lunar Orbiter 3, February 20, 1967 Photo Credit: NASA RPIF; Kinetikon Pictures)

Southern Spring on Mars: (beyondpics) At this time of the Martian year, a large fraction of the planet’s atmosphere evaporates from the southern polar cap (bottom) and migrates to the northern polar cap. Clouds are visible at the north polar cap and at the planetary horizon to the right. Rosetta, February 24, 2007 (Photo Credit: MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/ LAM/IAA/ RSSD/ INTA/ UPM/ DASP/ IDA/Michael Benson; Kinetikon Pictures

The View from Basin to the North-east of Husband Hill on Mars: (beyondpics)Basaltic plains stretch to the distant rim of Thira Crater. Multi-frame mosaic. Spirit Rover, November 3, 2005

(Photo Credit: NASA; JPL; Cornell University; Kinetikon Pictures)

Late Northern Summer on Mars: (beyondpics) The bright area to the right is carbon dioxide frost in the Hellas impact basin. Multi-frame orthographic projection. Viking Orbiter 1, July 7, 1980 (Photo Credit: NASA; JPL; USGS; Jody Swann/Tammy Becker/Alfred McEwen; Kinetikon Pictures

The Valles Marineris Canyon System: (beyondpics) The largest canyon in the Solar System, Valles Marineris is almost 2,500 miles long—nearly as long as the continental United States is wide. A ground fog hugs can be seen inside the canyon floor. Haze in the thin Martian atmosphere is visible on the horizon. Multi-frame mosaic. Viking Orbiter 1, July 16, 1978

(Photo Credit: NASA; JPL; Dr. Paul Geissler; Kinetikon Pictures)

Part of Valles Marineris canyon system on Mars: (beyondpics) The maze-like curving rift valleys in the center are called Noctis Labyrinthus — Night Labyrinth. Two volcanoes are visible: Arsia Mons (top right) and Pavonis Mons (bottom right). Multi-frame mosaic. Viking Orbiter 1, February 22, 1980

(Photo Credit: NASA; JPL; Dr. Paul Geissler; Kinetikon Pictures)

The Summit of Olympus Mons on Mars: (beyondpics) The highest mountain in the Solar System, Olympus Mons is almost 15 miles high. Its volcanic caldera, shown here, is about two 2 miles deep. Mars Express, January 21, 2004

(Photo Credit: ESA; DLR; FU Berlin – G. Neukum; Kinetikon Pictures)

Jupiter and Two of its Moons: (beyondpics) A ‘fire and ice’ pairing of Jupiter’s large moons – volcanic Io (lower left) and frozen Europa (upper right) – orbit across the face of the giant planet. Voyager 1, March 2, 1979

(Photo Credit: NASA; JPL; Dr. Paul Geissler; Kinetikon Pictures)

Io High Above Jupiter’s Storms: (beyondpics) Io appears near the center in the transition area between Jupiter’s day and night sides. Even though Jupiter’s size is immense, it rotates much faster than Earth – once every 10 hours. Cassini, January 1, 2001

(Photo Credit: NASA; JPL; Ciclops; University of Arizona; Kinetikon

Erupting into Space: An 86-mile-high volcanic plume explodes above the horizon of Jupiter’s moon Io. The plume is erupting over a caldera (volcanic depression), named Pillan Patera, after a South American god of thunder, fire, and volcanoes. Galileo, June 28, 1997

(Photo Credit: NASA; JPL; PIRL; University of Arizona; Kinetikon Pictures)

An Ice-Covered Ocean: (beyondpics) Chaos terrain, faults, and curving ridges cover the face of Jupiter’s moon Europa, one of the most tantalizingly enigmatic worlds in the Solar System. Europa almost certainly has a vast, ice-capped global ocean kept warm by the gravitational effects of Jupiter and the its moons, and perhaps by volcanoes on the hidden sea floor. Europa may have enough heat, water, and organic material for life to have evolved here. Multi-frame mosaic.

Galileo, March 29, 1998 (Photo Credit: NASA; JPL; Kinetikon Pictures)

Europa and the Great Red Spot: (beyondpics) Europa (upper right) is slightly smaller than Earth’s Moon. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a vast cyclonic storm system about two times the size of Earth, is surrounded by other oval storms and banded clouds. Multi-frame mosaic.

Voyager 1, March 3, 1979 (Photo Credit: NASA; JPL; Kinetikon Pictures)

Glorious Saturn: (beyondpics) This view is the most detailed, natural color image of Saturn and its rings ever made. The planet’s shadow is seen making its way across the rings to the left. Blue-gray storms can be seen in Saturn’s the southern hemisphere to the right. Subtle color variations are also seen across the rings. The thread-like F ring casts ring shadows against the blue northern hemisphere. Saturn’s tiny moons Mimas and Janus are both faintly visible (at the lower left). Multi-frame mosaic. Cassini, October 6, 2004

(Photo Credit: NASA; JPL; Cyclops; SSI; Kinetikon Pictures)

Uranus and Its Rings: (beyondpics) This remarkable picture shows the very faint rings of Uranus, which were discovered in 1977. Extremely dark, they may be made of innumerable countless fragments of water ice containing radiation-altered organic material. Uranus was the first planet discovered that was unknown to ancient astronomers. It was first sighted in 1781 by British astronomer William Herschel discovered the planet in 1781, using a homemade 15-centimeter telescope.

Voyager, January 24, 1986 (Photo Credit: NASA; JPL; Calvin Hamilton)

Dual crescent view of Neptune and its moon Triton: (beyondpics) This crescent view of the outermost planet and its moon is one of the last images recorded by Voyager 2’s cameras as it sped onwards to interstellar space, having surveyed most of the outer Solar System. Voyager 2, August 31, 1989

(Photo Credit: NASA; JPL; Calvin Hamilton; Kinetikon Pictures)