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Cosmos Versus Canvas: Astronomy Inspires Art at Armagh

Dr Jayanne English of the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada will deliver a free public lecture at the Armagh Planetarium on Tuesday 4th August at 7:30 pm, entitled "Cosmos versus Canvas: Tensions between Art and Science in Astronomy Images". This is part of the Armagh Observatory's programme of events to support the United Nations International Year of Astronomy 2009.

Dr English is an outstanding speaker who uses bold colour images from telescopes to act as extraordinary ambassadors for astronomers because they provoke huge curiosity in people's minds. The images are especially popular during this International Year of Astronomy, but raise the question whether the snapshots are documenting physical reality or are merely artistic "space-scapes" created by digitally manipulating astronomical images.

The lecture will provide a tour of how original black-and-white data, for example from the Hubble Space Telescope, are converted into the familiar colour images gracing newspapers and magazines. Each image can be regarded as a battlefield where the attempt by scientists to represent their discoveries accurately all but drowns out the artistic voice of visual literacy. Yet sometimes in this battle between the cultures of science and visual art, both sides win. This struggle will be presented from the perspective of a professional astronomer who has also trained as an artist.

Jayanne English is an Associate Professor of Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manitoba. Her career has intertwined art and astronomy right from the start - she graduated from the Ontario College of Art before moving on first to receive her BSc. in Astronomy from the University of Toronto and then her PhD from the Australian National University in 1994. Jayanne is committed to public outreach and served as the astronomy columnist on CBC Radio's "Quirks and Quarks" programme from 2000-2002. Aside from her "standard" research pursuits (e.g. studying the behaviour of gas in interacting groups of galaxies and in our Milky Way Galaxy), her great strength is creating colour outreach images from astronomy data. As part of her work with the Hubble Space Telescope Jayanne coordinated the Hubble Heritage project, and authored the Hubble Heritage website in 1998-2000.

For tickets to the public lecture, please contact Neil Cullen at the Armagh Planetarium (neilat signarmaghplanet.com) or Aileen McKee at the Armagh Observatory (ambnat signarm.ac.uk). For further information on the creation of astronomical images, please see here.

Dr English will also conduct a Workshop at the Armagh Observatory on Wednesday 5th August at 10:00 a.m. on "How to make Astronomy Images" for those who may use image processing techniques in their work. For a free ticket for this Workshop (note that numbers are strictly limited) please contact Aileen McKee at the Armagh Observatory (ambnat signarm.ac.uk). Astronomical research at Armagh Observatory is supported largely by the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; jmfat signarm.ac.uk


Last Revised: 2009 July 20th
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