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To create his mesmerizing images of space, Michael Benson takes data from interplanetary probes by NASA and the European Space Agency, digitally enhances them, and spins them into photographs. It’s hard to know how much Benson is juicing his raw material, but the resulting images are so hypnotic that it’s easy not to care. Our solar system is represented in surprisingly high-resolution detail: the simmering, fire-belching sun; the Pacific Ocean lit by a warm glint of sunlight; odd, intestine-shaped atmospheric features that adjoin Jupiter’s great red spot. The unexpected stars of the show are moons you may never have heard of: Saturn’s subtly textured Enceladus spewing water into space from one of its polar regions; Saturn’s Mimas and Tethys breezily floating in front of the much larger planet; and Jupiter’s Io with its ugly, pitted, rotten-fruit surface (shown). Then there’s the understated “Sunset on Mars,” in which the sun sets behind the rim of a crater, casting a blue glow made gloomier still by atmospheric dust—a fitting requiem for an exhibit with impressively expansive horizons.
“Planetfall” is on view Mondays to Fridays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to June 28 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 New York Ave. NW. Free. (202) 326-6400. aaas.org.