Press Release

Sloan Digital Sky Survey Names Its First Artist in Residence

By SpaceRef Editor
May 24, 2018
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Art meets science as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey has officially appointed its first artist in residence.

Tim Fitzpatrick, an installation artist from Fife, Scotland, will continue his ongoing work in his new official capacity, bringing his unique perspective to an already-rich collaboration.

“I’m excited to be continuing my work to bring such exciting science to a new audience,” Fitzpatrick says.

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) is an international collaboration that has been working since 2000 to create the most detailed three-dimensional map of the universe ever made. Viewing the sky from twin telescopes in New Mexico and Chile — one in each hemisphere — the SDSS has captured color images of more than one-third of the entire sky, and measured the compositions and distances of more than three million stars and galaxies.

Now in its fourth phase, the SDSS continues to improve its map by measuring distances to more distant galaxies than ever before, collecting infrared spectra of hundreds of thousands of stars in our own galaxy, and mapping the full internal structure of hundreds of nearby galaxies. It is this last project, known as Mapping Nearby Galaxies from Apache Point Observatory (MaNGA), that first connected Fitzpatrick with the SDSS. Fitzpatrick has been working with Anne-Marie Weijmans of the University of St. Andrews, Data Release Coordinator for the SDSS. Last summer, he attended the SDSS collaboration meeting in Santiago, Chile, where he closed the meeting with an artistic summary. Fitzpatrick, Weijmans, and other SDSS researchers have worked together 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” has evolved from two earlier series of artworks by Fitzpatrick and responds to the nationally significant scientific instruments displayed at the Museum of the University of St. Andrews (MUSA). His new artworks are installed alongside historic artifacts, contributing to the gallery’s theme of “seeing and believing.” His installation will be on display at MUSA throughout May and June.

“Working with Tim on ‘Shine’ really showed us the impact art can have in engaging people with science and scientific data,” Weijmans says. “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.”

“I’ve been exploring the hidden messages encoded in emission line spectra,” Fitzpatrick says. “These spectra are so beautiful, and I want to help people become more familiar with their existence.”

Fitzpatrick’s new role as SDSS artist in residence will also help other artists connect with SDSS researchers, explains Karen Masters of Haverford College, the SDSS’s Scientific Spokesperson.

“Tim will help make the data from SDSS more accessible outside of the scientific community,” Masters says, “and he will also help our scientists gain a new perspective on our own work. We are delighted to have Tim as our Artist in Residence.”

SpaceRef staff editor.