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Shooting Stars

An out-of-this-world photo exhibit at London’s Natural History Museum

Author Nicholas DeRenzo Photography NASA; JPL; Michael Benson.

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If you oohed and aahed at the alien topography in Ridley Scott’s The Martian, we hate to break it to you, but you were actually oohing and aahing at the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan. Beginning this month, however, London’s Natural History Museum is presenting a taste of the real thing with the new exhibit “Otherworlds: Visions of Our Solar System.” Photographer and artist Michael Benson has spent years collecting raw images from NASA and the European Space Agency to create more than 70 composite landscapes of destinations hundreds of millions of miles away. On display are what Benson has called “the solar system’s quite dazzling diversity of landscapes”—from the red sands of Mars and the rings of Saturn to the swirling clouds of Earth’s ever-changing atmosphere and the cross-hatched icy surface of Europa (pictured), one of Jupiter’s 67 known moons. While these works evoke the grandeur and graphic simplicity of the best earthbound landscapes (you might call Benson the Ansel Adams of outer space), it’s important to remind yourself that each photograph required real-life rocket science to make it onto the gallery walls. — NICHOLAS DERENZO (JAN. 22)

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