Astronomy: from Antiquity to nowadays NASA

When a NASA masterpiece meets the universe of Raffaello

During the Renaissance, the painter Raffaello became so admired in Italy that he was buried inside the Pantheon in Rome, the greatest monument of the Ancients. His grave can still be found under this round temple which is deeply connected with astronomy: not only its perfect spherical shape which symbolizes the Cosmos, this great vault also has a central opening on the skies, from which the movement of the stars is clearly visible at night. Today, space agencies such as NASA in the United States or ESA in Europe keep on looking up to the universe. Their greatest success, thanks to the Planck satellite, was to capture an extraordinary and colorful image: the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). This photograph is one of the masterpieces of our time, just as Raphael's School of Athens in Vatican City is one of the Renaissance. These two creations of human genius seem to have nothing in common, but the Arts and Sciences are closer than you might think.

Indeed, the CMB is literally a picture of the "background noise" of the Cosmos which dates from 13.8 billion years ago, just after the Big Bang. Likewise, the Greek Philosophy continues to be heard in the Western world as a distant echo through the ages. Thus, NASA created the image of the oldest lights of Nature emitted after the original Big Bang, just as The School of Athens is the image of the oldest philosophical Lights of our culture, resulting from the intellectual Big Bang that was Greece in the Vth century BC. Based on the mysterious link between two worlds, we invite you to rediscover this fresco by Raphael through a series of digital creations interweaving this masterpiece with the images of NASA and views of the Pantheon in Rome.

Benjamin R.

July 16, 2021

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