By Tom Yulsman | March 4, 2013 12:17 am

Image: NASA Worldview

This may well be a low pressure system swirling in the Southern Ocean west of Australia, as imaged by the MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra Satellite on March 3.

And I’m sure the false colors really do reveal details about the water, snow and ice content of the clouds.

But to me, it is a work of art. Which raises all sorts of interesting questions…


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Remote Sensing, select, Top Posts, Weather
  • Ron Broberg

    Art implies artifact implies artificer.
    Beauty, on the other hand, is in the eye of the beholder.
    I think we can agree that the image is beautiful although we may not agree that it is art.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tom.yulsman Tom Yulsman

      Ah, but consider this: The MODIS instrument on a NASA satellite captured multiple images, which were then stitched together into a global mosaic. Not quite an artifact. I came along and explored that mosaic, finding a beautiful vortex. I then decided to view the image in false color, which turned it into something special. And then I cropped it just so to produce something based on the original but now quite distinct.

      That to me is an artifact.

      Okay, so let me ask this: If a famous artist did the same thing, and then took it a step farther by printing the image on high quality paper with, say, a pigment transfer process, and then framed it, would it be art then? What if a museum hung it?

      Just sayin’…

      • Ron Broberg

        Ah … not the direction I thought you were leaning. 😀

        Is everything the artificer produces art? Or just those things he intends? I think the later. What is it about the artist’s intention that makes the artifact art?

        Here’s the weird thing about art. If an artist (it could be anyone, including you) printed this image and hung it as art – it is art. By framing and hanging the artist has demonstrated an intent. The artist has imbued the artifact with his intention. And if you posted this image with artistic intent – even just to share the message ‘hey guys, isn’t this beautiful, ain’t the world grand?’, then, yeah, it’s art. But is it good art? I think we need a critic!

        my 2c …



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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