Our Place in Space: Hubble Images and Inspired Art

Carol Christian, carolc@stsci.edu, Antonella Nota, nota@stsci.edu, and Anna Caterina Bellati, Bellati Editore

Enhancing the connection between science and art

For more than two decades, Hubble’s images have engaged the public and bolstered interest in science and astronomy. Scientists and the public alike have been inspired by the fundamental questions that are often triggered by Hubble discoveries: Where do we come from? Where we are going? Are we alone? The new exhibit, Our Place in Space, is designed to capture the spirit of wonder and inspiration generated when we pause to ponder humanity’s place in the grand scheme of the cosmos. To do this in a public exhibit, we ask astronomers and artists to communicate their interpretation of where we are and belong, how our past affects us, and what our future might be—through imagery and art. The exhibit’s themes present humanity’s adventure in space from local exploration in the solar system out to discoveries at the edge of the universe.

Our Place in Space, sponsored by ESA and in cooperation with NASA, is a portable, adaptable exhibit, based on an idea by Antonella Nota and Venetian art curator Anna Caterina Bellati. It showcases stunning Hubble imagery documenting our presence in the universe, while the art reflects the impact that Hubble has made on culture and society.

Figure 1: Opening venue for the Our Place in Space Exhibit (February/March 2017): The Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti in Venice.

Exhibit components

The exhibit, constructed to be portable and adaptable to the specific venue and the locale, is adaptable to venues large and modest. The key themes of the exhibit are “What is our place in the solar system, galaxy, local universe, and cosmos?” Each theme is articulated through relevant Hubble images accompanied by artistic interpretations of the same question. Through a local, associated art curator, connections will be made to the local art community to create “local” interpretations of the themes. Art installations will comprise literature, painting, video, sculpture, and any other inventive medium proposed. In most instances, the exhibit will be fabricated locally, and for some venues, the exhibit could travel to nearby host institutions if desired.

Selecting the specific art

While the Hubble images will, in general, be the same from venue to venue, the exhibit design will accommodate updated imagery associated with new discoveries, since the exhibit run will span several years. The local art will vary from place to place; it may be an extension of an existing local art museum for unusual or innovative art, or it can be commissioned to local professional artists. In a few venues, the art may be provided by budding student artists.

Figure 2: Art from Mario Paschetta called Mountain Lakes (2010) in acrylic, oils, natural earth, fabric, oxides, mortar on jute and is 150 × 150 cm. This is as an example of an art piece that might be exhibited in one of the exhibit areas, for example, in this case, the Exoplanet room.


Our Place in Space will open in Venice in February 2017. Other locations to host their local interpretation of the exhibit are the Supernova Museum in Munich, Germany (late 2017), the Science Museum of South Australia in Adelaide, Australia (September 2017), and Vienna, Austria (2018). Other possibilities are in Edinburgh, UK, and several locations in the United States. We are excited about this world exhibit and the possibilities for its extension.

Figure 3: One of our favorite images will be displayed in the Nebula Room—the 25th anniversary image of Westerlund 2.

Executive Committee and Advisors

Antonella Nota (Chair; ESA/STScI)
Anna Caterina Bellati (Bellati Edrs.)
Lars Christensen (ESO)
Carol Christian (STScI)
Roger Davies (Oxford, UK)
Hussein Jirdeh (STScI)
NASA Representative – Ken Carpenter (NASA/GSFC)