Wish You Were Here?

Spiral Galaxy Messier 81 (M81), 2003, Spitzer Space Telescope / IRAC, NASA / JPL-Caltech / S. Willne

You may in fact be, or just feel like, a big shot down here on earth. But, ever since airborne cameras started to photograph our little planet from above, and once they began to be catapulted on a regular basis into outer space, one fact became startlingly clear. Each of us is just a bit player in the bigger picture that is the universe.

Since photography’s introduction in the early 19th century, curious people eager to see what lies beyond earthly experience and limited human sight have pointed telescopes and cameras heavenward. Smithsonian collections house tens, if not hundreds of thousands of the photographic images that result from that historical and ongoing activity. One of the more amazing experiences I’ve had working on click! was the afternoon Merry Foresta and I spent at the National Museum of Air and Space Museum, flipping through the three-ring binders housing all the images that were made on the various Apollo missions. I like the idea that as I sit here, writing this blog post about photography and astronomy, a camera mounted on a roving vehicle is busily recording Mars’ topographic conditions and details. The picture making never stops.

A few years ago, when the Photography Initiative began to sort through some programming ideas, I was excited to meet Giovanni Fazio, senior physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who helped me better understand photography’s role in astronomical research. And now, in his newly uploaded piece for click!, Giovanni—principal investigator for the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) experiment on the Spitzer Space Telescope, one of NASA's Great Observatories—writes about almost too fantastic to comprehend, how infrared photography enables us to simultaneously capture and see aspects of the past, present, and future of the universe.

Read Giovanni Fazio's entire click! piece.

Leave a Comment

Produced by the Smithsonian Institution Archives. For copyright questions, please see the Terms of Use.