February 2–July 27, 2008

Cats Eye Galaxy

The Cat's Eye Nebula

View more images from the show

Through the centuries and across the globe, people have gazed up into the night sky and attempted to make sense of the countless stars they could see, naming them, tracking them, and speculating about what they might mean. Hubble, launched in 1990, has allowed astronomers to peer deeper into the universe and with greater precision than ever before. The Walters will highlight some of the fruits of this endeavor in Mapping the Cosmos: Images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Featuring pictures that are as beautiful and awe-inspiring as they are scientifically momentous, the exhibition will encourage visitors to consider how these images shape our understanding of the universe and our place in it.

This is the first exhibition dedicated to Hubble imagery at a major art museum, providing an excellent opportunity for the public to contemplate these works from a different perspective. The symbiotic relationship of art and scientific exploration has always played an important role in expanding human knowledge. While noting the astronomical substance of this imagery, this exhibition will treat these pictures as artworks, investigating how they are made, their unique visual qualities, and how we react to them aesthetically.

This exhibition is also notable because it is the result of a group effort between three great Baltimore institutions. Undergraduates from the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) worked in conjunction with staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Walters to organize the exhibition through a class offered by the JHU Program in Museums and Society. In the course of the project, the students had to learn about everything from the processes of star formation to the optics of the space telescope to the methods of displaying art in a museum. Because of this special collaboration, the resulting exhibition embodies not only the wondrous phenomena of the universe, but also the exceptional talents of the people of Baltimore.