Watch CBS News

Amazing! Magellanic Cloud Images From Space Look Like Van Gogh Painted Them

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The image from the European Space Agency's Planck satellite of Magellanic Clouds and an interstellar filament bear an uncanny resemblance to a post-impressionist Vincent Van Gogh painting.

In a side-by-side comparison of the Planck image and Van Gogh's 'Starry Night,' the artist's brush strokes mimic the same swirling cosmic impression relayed by the satellite.

The ESA released the image on Tuesday. The two small patches of brown spots are the Large Megellanic Cloud (160,000 light-years away) and the Small Magellanic Cloud (200,000 light-years away). A dusty filament stretches between the two galaxies.

The two galaxies were named after Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, whose crew first saw them during their first voyage around the world in the 16th century.

According to the ESA these dwarf galaxies are "among the nearest companions of our Milky Way galaxy."

"Planck detected the dust between the stars pervading the Magellanic Clouds while surveying the sky to study the cosmic microwave background – the most ancient light in the Universe – in unprecedented detail," wrote the ESA in a press release. "In fact, Planck detected emission from virtually anything that shone between itself and the cosmic background at its sensitive frequencies."

There are many galaxies in the foreground and the interstellar dust from our Galaxy is the "mixture of red, orange and yellow clouds in the upper part of this image, which belong to a large star-forming complex in the southern constellation, Chameleon."

Van Gogh painted his dreamy, swirly 'Starry Night' in 1889, while convalescing at a hospital in the South of France. He had been experiencing psychotic episodes for some time, yet he created some of his most celebrated work during this period. His genius transcends time and space. The bright yellow stars in a sea of blue night sky bear a striking resemblance to Planck's images of Magellanic Clouds.

Was Van Gogh channeling early European explorers and astronomers, or was he seeing something light-years away in his mind's eye?

"The Magellanic Clouds are not visible from high northern latitudes and were introduced to European astronomy only at the turn of the 16th century," said ESA. "However, they were known long before by many civilisations in the southern hemisphere, as well as by Middle Eastern astronomers."

We'll never what exactly inspired Van Gogh's cosmic brush strokes, but he did give credit to the stars... and his dreams --

"For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream."

"I dream of painting and then I paint my dream." writer, producer Jan Mabry is also executive producer and host of The Bronze Report. She lives in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter @janmabr.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.