From the Distant Past Exhibit

Astronomy at the Harbor: Baltimore 5 – 11 PM, November 14-27, 2011

Rose Center For
Earth And Space

  • American Museum of Natural History
  • New York, NY
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The signatures of the stars are being scribbled in light across the sphere of New York City's Hayden Planetarium. Every night for just 14 days, see an extraordinary outdoor exhibit that melds astronomy and art, projecting data scientists use to read the secrets of the universe across the outside of the American Museum of Natural History.

For decades, the Hayden Planetarium has taken audiences on tours of the universe. Tonight the show takes place on the outside. Green, animated waves of laser light pulse over Hayden’s exterior. Evoking heartbeats or brain waves, these brilliant undulations represent astronomical spectra captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Some of the observations depicted in this exhibit are of light that has traveled for billions of years across space. This unique art work explores the phenomenon of color in a new, conceptual way. It is a minimalist voyage not only back into time, but also to the boundaries of contemporary vision.

The Art: From the Distant Past
AMNH Exhibit
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German artist Tim Otto Roth, known for his large public works that combine astrophysics and art, created "From the Distant Past." Captivated by the importance of color in deciphering astronomical questions, Roth sought to merge the scientific and visual arts with an exhibit that explores the ability of spectrographic data from far-distant galaxies to exactly describe a color, thus telling "a story about the oldest colors in the universe."

First shown in Venice, Italy, and then in Baltimore, Md., home of the Hubble Space Telescope’s science program, "From the Distant Past" now takes its examination of color as both a scientific and sensory experience to the exterior walls of the Hayden Planetarium.

The Science: Decoding the Light of Hubble

The exhibit’s jagged, heart monitor-like scrawls are astronomical spectra from the Hubble Telescope, created by breaking light from a cosmic object into a rainbow of colors and analyzing it for information. The data, produced by instruments called spectrographs, tells astronomers how hot an object is, how it moves, the elements it contains, and more.

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