Sloan Digital Sky Survey is using art to engage the public at the University of St Andrews

May 25, 2018
A new artist-in-residence will help engage the public with astronomy by working with the SDSS. 

IMAGE: A collage of SDSS spectra shown as circles and lines, adapted from the Shine exhibit now on display at the Museum of the University of St Andrews (MUSA). Courtesy Tim Fitzpatrick, Artist in Residence, Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

A new artist-in-residence will help engage the public with astronomy by working with the University of St Andrews and its partners in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). The SDSS, begun in 2000, has captured color images of more than a third of the entire sky using twin telescopes in New Mexico and Chile and has measured the compositions and distances of more than three million stars and galaxies.

Tim Fitzpatrick, an installation artist, is working with Anne-Marie Weijmans of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews, to create Shine – an interactive exhibit combining art and music with SDSS data to enhance public understanding of how light works.

Shine: Code for Everything III is currently on display at the Museum of the University of St Andrews (MUSA). It shows Fitzpatrick’s artistic response to the scientific instruments on display at the museum, alongside historic artefacts as part of the gallery’s theme of “seeing and believing”.

Fitzpatrick said, “I’ve been exploring the hidden messages encoded in emission line spectra. These spectra are so beautiful, and I want to help people become more familiar with their existence. I’m excited to be continuing my work to bring such exciting science to a new audience.”

“Working with Tim on Shine really showed us the impact art can have in engaging people with science and scientific data. Many visitors say they had never been to a science exhibit before, but they were drawn in by the art and want to learn more about the science that inspired it,” Weijmans added.

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IMAGE: An artistic display of fragments of SDSS spectra, adapted from the 'Shine' exhibit now on display at the Museum of the University of St Andrews (MUSA). Image courtesy Tim Fitzpatrick, Artist in Residence, Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

Source: Museum of the University of St Andrews

About the Author

Conard Holton | Editor at Large

Conard Holton has 25 years of science and technology editing and writing experience. He was formerly a staff member and consultant for government agencies such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and engineering companies such as Bechtel. He joined Laser Focus World in 1997 as senior editor, becoming editor in chief of WDM Solutions, which he founded in 1999. In 2003 he joined Vision Systems Design as editor in chief, while continuing as contributing editor at Laser Focus World. Conard became editor in chief of Laser Focus World in August 2011, a role in which he served through August 2018. He then served as Editor at Large for Laser Focus World and Co-Chair of the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar from August 2018 through January 2022. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, with additional studies at the Colorado School of Mines and Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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