These past 6 months have been exciting for the Ballarat Observatory. Earlier in the year, one of our team members put in a proposal for a light installation in Ballarat during the Ballarat Laneways Festivak, which was accepted! Being the International Year of Light, the aim was to combine science and art by creating an interactive, visually immersive and educational piece. The result of this endeavor after months of reducing the data, building the panels and electronics, is an installation titled – ‘Looking Far, Looking Back…Revealing the Cosmos’.
The installation uses real all-sky redshift data to plot the position of galaxies in galactic coordinates (essentially, the Milky Way becomes the coordinate reference frame). Each panel represents the a certain stage in the evolution of the Universe (or galaxies at a particular redshift). The brightness of the panels can be controlled by the viewer, and the color of the panels changes to red, representing the fact that the light (spectrum) from the most distant objects is shifted towards the red end of the Electromagnetic Spectrum.
The viewer stands at a control panel and looks out through the Milky Way, looking further back in space and time! The installation, also has an information panel that explains everything from the concept of redshift to the electromagnetic spectrum and how astronomers are able to detect light from the earliest epochs of the Universe. Most people are accustomed to the beautiful astronomical images of galaxies and nebulae, however, few appreciate the raw astronomical data astronomers work with and the “beauty” it can have.
As has been mentioned in other posts, the New Horizons flyby of the Pluto-Charon system was a major event and we wanted the public to appreciate the importance of this historical event. Leading up to the event, our school holiday program was titled “Hello! Pluto”, we held daily lectures, activities and Q&A sessions. In addition we also produced limited edition mugs marking the event. On the night of the flyby, we held a special lecture about how Pluto was discovered, the stories about the colorful characters involved and ultimately the exploration of this mysterious solar system body (and its partner).
In August, as part of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale, we will be holding an astrophotography exhibition – Celestial Kaleidoscope, showcasing the work of national and international astrophotographers.
In addition, we have forged a partnership with the Slow Music Festival, to hold an overnight event, celebrating science of sound through music at the Ballarat Observatory – Space is the Place is the theme for the night.