Distant Vistas@UCL

Image source: University College London

Today, I had the opportunity to check out the ‘Distant Vistas’ exhibition in the UCL South Cloisters. The exhibition reminded me strongly of a presentation at the Arts Catalyst’s ‘Kosmica’ event, which talked about designed environments for space. Part of the talk showed examples of how astronauts train for missions in space in remote locations. One astronaut quote about their training in the Arizona desert went something like ‘it’s just like being on Mars’. The exhibition shows scientists doing something similar: doing research on Earth – in places such as Iceland – to learn about environments outside of Earth. So, in some sense, again, the Earth becomes ‘just like Mars’. The kind of images that are shown are of scientists in different locations – laboratories, deserts and rock formations. But space is also dedicated to samples, research tools and research output, which gives an insight into the sorts of questions scientists are struggling with. (My favourite image subtitle from the latter section (so far) is: ‘The anomalous ureilite LAR04315 in crossed polarised light. No one knows what gives this sample its bizarre texture, but it certainly is pretty!’) Altogether, the exhibition gives an interesting snapshot not only of the work that is being done in space science, but how it is being done – and how scientists are creatively struggling with making sense of extra-terrestrial environments from earthly analogues and current earthly knowledge.

If you are out and about in the Bloomsbury area, have a look in the main building (the exhibition is near the entrance to the main UCL library).
Distant Vistas is on from 22 January – 22nd April 2011 during UCL opening hours (free entry).