These Photos Taken From Space Look Astonishingly Like Art Masterpieces

ASTER reveals how art imitates reality

Cancun, Mexico
Pictured left: Cancun, Mexico on May 14, 2014; pictured right: Helen Frankenthaler, Canyon, 1965 U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team / Helen Frankenthaler, Canyon, 1965

Since 1999, Japan’s ASTER (short for Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) has been generating images of earth from NASA's Terra spacecraft. The results of this collaborative effort between Japan and the United States has now been made public, and anyone with an internet connection can look up sites like the Great Wall of China and rare views of the lava flows of Mt. Etna.

This isn’t the first time NASA has released playful art—they previously released these cheeky space travel posters. But this is completely different, and enthralling in its own way. Looked at through the eyes (or sensors) of ASTER, the world in all its thermal glory looks more like an impressionist painting than the high-resolution chaos it appears to be from below. In honor of this more artful view of the world, we paired some of our favorite space images with the fine art classics they evoke. Click through for some surprising pairings.

Baiyun Ebo, Inner Mongolia

Pictured left: A mine in Baiyun Ebo, Inner Mongolia, on June 30, 2006; pictured right: Cy Twombly, Untitled (Scenes from an ideal Marriage), 1986

Poyang Lake, China

Pictured left: China’s Poyang Lake on July 14, 1989; pictured right: Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, 1767

Richat Structure, Mauritania

Pictured left: Richat Structure–a circular landmark in the Sahara desert–in Oudane, Mauritania, on October 7, 2000; pictured right: Georgia O'Keeffe, Abstraction White Rose, 1927

Lake Natron, Tanzania

Pictured left: Lake Natron in Tanzania on March 8, 2003; pictured right: Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec, Jane Avril Dancing, 1893

Wadi Al Dawasir, Saudi Arabia

Pictured left: The Wadi Al Dawasir region of Saudi Arabia in the Arabian Desert on March 30, 2013; pictured right: Claude Monet, Poppies, 1873

Cancun, Mexico

Pictured left: Cancun, Mexico on May 14, 2014; pictured right: Helen Frankenthaler, Canyon, 1965

Little Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Pictured left: The Little Atlas Mountains of Morocco on June 13, 2001; pictured right: Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1914-1926

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