The California Nebula and Pleiades
More info i
The California Nebula and Pleiades. Credit: Rogelio Bernal Andreo

The Art of Science

Contributed by
Dec 3, 2014, 12:19 PM EST

I do love posting pretty pictures on the blog, for many reasons. Of course, they’re pretty—that’s part of the point.

But a picture is worth a thousand scientific words: Behind every image is a scientific principle or two, something worth digging into a little bit. If a beautiful photograph of a galaxy or star cluster gets somebody’s attention, then maybe I can get a couple of minutes to show them something they never knew before.

I have no problem with that.

Recently, I posted a devastatingly beautiful photo of a patch of sky showing both a ruby-colored star-forming nebula and the cerulean blue bright young Pleiades cluster. After describing them, I took a moment to note the artistry of the sky, and of the photographer, Rogelio Bernal Andreo.

Andreo contacted me, thanking me for the article. He liked what I wrote so much that he took my words and put them over another photo of his (of the Rho Ophiuchi region).

the art of science

My words, superposed on the stunning astrophotography of Rogelio Bernal Andreo. Credit: Rogelio Bernal Andreo / Phil Plait

Here’s the quote:

As usual, I have to smile wryly when I hear people try to distinguish art from science. The Universe is both, folks. You may try to tear them apart, but you cannot, for the artistry of the Universe is forever intertwined with how it works. They drive each other; the science is why the art is beautiful, and the art is one of the reasons we pursue the science.

I have to say, I am very proud and honored that he did this; I think Andreo is one of the very best astrophotographers in the world. It was his work that inspired those words, and I am more than happy to share the credit with him.