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Silent Sky: Panorama


The Evolution of Astronomy

Silent Sky is a story written by Lauren Gunderson about American astronomer Henrietta Leavitt who begins work at Harvard’s Observatory in the early 1900s. Tasked with examining photographic plates in order to measure and catalog stars. Henrietta discovered variables that allowed astronomers the means to measure the distance to faraway galaxies.

To support the narrative of a staged production of Silent Sky at Michigan Technological University, an art gallery exhibit was created. The gallery featured various images captured throughout history from early astronomy photonegative star fields, to vast nebulas captured by modern telescopes such as The Hubble Space Telescope.

At the center of the exhibit was a large animated representation of the Milky Way Galaxy photograph from the European Southern Observatory. The image was projected by three overlapping projectors to increase the surface area of the projected display. To create a natural falloff of the projected light and avoid a rectangular video black frame, the projector lenses were shuttered with black foil to create a natural vignette around the outside of the image.

Below is a digital version of the animation that was projected. Outside of the obvious “star movement” there is a very subtle evolution in the distant stars and clouds to give the image a bit more breath while standing before it.


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