Mill Hill Observatory, London

I didn’t feel there was much overt appreciation for art demonstrated at the observatory. However, there were different styles of design for each of the telescopes.

The Cooke refractor was arguably the most aesthetically magnificent – a wonderful 8”f/16 Fry telescope (1862) . The wonderful bronze and brass components, now polished, gleamed wonderfully. The handles are made from beautiful English walnut.

The Allen (1974) was the first I viewed, a 24-inch reflecting telescope. It, to my eyes, looks much like dental surgery equipment.

The Radcliffe (1901) is the largest at the observatory – a five tonne instrument. The floor rises when the telescope is readied, and it is maneuvered manually. Dr. Fossey spoke of the telescope ‘It is a very physically demanding thing’. The way he pulled it reminded me of how a mast of an old ship is repositioned.

The emphasis on the new machinery seemed to be functionality, the old looked more frivolous. Why is scientific equipment, now ,more visually spare – perhaps not less complicated. I wonder if the sleek shells now encase more wires, whereas the technology used to be part of the aesthetic.

There was reference to art and science in Dr. Fossey’s talk – pages from Kepler’s De Stella Nova – 1606, were shown. I enjoyed looking at Kepler’s drawing where he depicts the location of the stella nova in the foot of Ophiuchus. De stella nova in pede Serpentarii

Also, reference was made to Katie Paterson’s visits to the observatory. I have looked at a lot of her work, and she has become relevant to my practice. Her ‘Second Moon’ – where she had a piece of moon rock couriered around the world for a year was relevant to my Guernsey Museum residency piece ‘After Richard Saumarez’. I created silicon carbide crystal from Guernsey beach sand, through heeding instruction from a book written in the 1700’s. Aspects of time and using mineral substances became important.

‘Everything we understand about the universe depends on being able to analyse the properties of light’ -Dr. Fossey

‘The sky is free – it is an open – access laboratory’ -Fossey

Why is the universe speeding up?

You can’t look through telescopes during the day because there is too much background light.

How far away are the furthest entities we can see? Can we predict the positions of the entities and what they may be through looking at objects that are closer?

Our nearest galactic neighbor – Andromeda.

The universe is 30.7 billion years old.

In 5,000,000,000 years our sun will turn into a white dwarf.

The iron in our blood (that allows us to think) is from supernovae.

Art and Science – Kepler’s De Stella Nova – 1606

Tycho Brahe

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