April 10, 2017 8:34 pm

Tuesday, we’ve made “Science and Art, with Carolyn Porco,” Sean Ono Lennon and Chuck Nice even better!

One of our classic StarTalk All-Stars episodes has now been extended with all new content! Science and Art, with Carolyn Porco, featuring “Bad-ass Science Groupie” Sean Ono Lennon, and comic co-host Chuck Nice, now features Carolyn and Sean answering more fan-submitted Cosmic Queries, via Facebook Live, about music for astronauts, the search for life in the outer solar system, the Andromeda galaxy, the shape of our solar system, OSIRIS-REx, Enceladus, and more!

If you haven’t heard the original episode, it’s well worth the listen.

The main theme of the episode is this question: Does art inspire science, or does science inspire art?

As the leader of the Cassini Imaging Team, which is responsible for creating some the most artistic, beautiful and scientifically important photos of Saturn, Jupiter, Titan and Enceladus that we’ve ever seen, it is likely that Carolyn has pondered this question before.

It runs through the entire episode, mixed in with other subjects that interest Carolyn and Sean, or that come up as a result of the fan-submitted Cosmic Queries that Chuck throws at the pair, like concerns about the human impact on Earth during the Anthropocene Age, or the lack of civility and empathy on social media sites like Twitter.

As one might expect, with Sean being the “Bad-ass Science Groupie” that he is, he has plenty to say about the intersection of science and art. But there’s a story that Carolyn tells at the end of the episode about space artists that was particularly intriguing.

Cassini's photo of Jupiter, titled "The Greatest Jupiter Portrait." Credit: NASA/JPL/SSI.

The Greatest Jupiter Portrait. Credit: NASA/JPL/SSI.

It turns out that CICLOPS.org, the Cassini Imaging Team’s website which is filled with amazing photographs like “The Day the Earth Smiled” or “The Greatest Jupiter Portrait” (shown above) or “Bursting at the Seams,” the dramatic photo of the plumes spewing out from the south pole of Enceladus, there is also a section called the “Art Room.”

Here’s an excerpt from the description of the Art Room:

“Ever since the mid-20th century, when Chesley Bonestell’s first austere depictions of Saturn seen from the surface of Titan became an enticing invitation to explore the unknown, generations of astronomical artists following in his stead have transported us through space with finely-crafted visions of alien worlds we could not otherwise have even imagined. Their captivating works — vivid, visceral and vicariously experiential — nourished in the viewer a powerful longing for adventure, and inspired many an early astronomer and engineer to dream of a life exploring the solar system… Here, on the pages of this Art Room, in recognition and with gratitude for the delight and inspiration we have enjoyed because of them, we are featuring the creative contributions of today’s space artists to this noble genre. We honor their soaring imaginations, technical skills, and artistic talents, as we celebrate, too, the special bond that joins them to us. For astronomical artists, like scientists, are romantics, dreamers, and explorers …. ever yearning, ever seeking, ever hopeful. We salute them, kindred souls, one and all.

There is one particular painting in the Art Room that Carolyn describes in tomorrow’s episode. It’s called “Coasting Above the Rings”, and it’s by the artist Michael Carroll. (You can visit his website here.)  We’ve used it as the main image on our webpage for tomorrow’s episode, and you can see it here, too:

“Coasting Above the Rings.” Courtesy of the CICLOPS.org Saturn Space Art Gallery. Credit: © 2014 Michael Carroll. Visit his Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/LivingAmongGiants.

According to Carolyn, “The piece came about after Michael heard me describe this very scene in talks that I give on Cassini.” And, according to Michael “As an artist, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with those rings. All those concentric circles are enough to drive anyone crazy! But their dazzling nature, as brought out by Cassini’s magical images, is just too much to pass up. For this view, I had to actually create a small sculpture–with help from Carolyn Porco–to duplicate the geometry of pointed shadows and curvilinear forms before I truly understood what those undulating fins looked like.” You can read more about “Coasting Above the Rings” and download it for yourself here on CICLOPS.org.

Clearly, an instance where science influenced art.

If you want to revisit this great episode, now bursting with even more of Carolyn, Sean and Chuck, then join us tomorrow night for Extended Classic: Science and Art, with Carolyn Porco at 7pm EDT right here on our website, as well as on our new All-Stars channels on iTunes PodcastsGoogle Play MusicSoundCloudStitcher, and TuneIn. And if you’re an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Ian Mullen