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"We Are Stardust"

An installation by George Legrady, professor of Media Arts and Technology and the Department of Art

Project Production Team: Andres Burbano: artist, researcher. Javier Villegas: project engineer, infrared and 3D visualization. Tyler Beckert: 3D visualization.

"We are Stardust" is a two-screen projection installation with infrared camera that maps the sequence of NASA sky observations from 2003 to the present through the Spitzer Space Telescope, an infra-red temperature sensing instrument that is orbiting the sun, and trailing in the earth's orbit.

The intent of the project is to consider the question of how we imagine our place in space and time at the grand scale, and where scientists are looking into space. This is realized by visually mapping the schedule of scientific observations. The schedule, consisting of data as to what celestial bodies were looked at, when, for how long, and by whom, provides an overview of the program's activities.

There are two main visual projections, one representing deep space, the other the local space of the gallery. The map of the universe is projected and inscribed with the traces of the Spitzer telescope's observations. The other consists of an infrared camera's continuous movements in the gallery that replays the history of the telescope's movements. By being situated in the exhibition space, it visually records spectators' thermal presence and actions.

"We are Stardust" is a commissioned installation artwork by the Art Center College of Design, and NASA's Spitzer Science Center's Education and Public Outreach office, both based in Pasadena. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope is a sun-orbiting, infrared observatory, managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and located on the California Institute of Technology campus. The installation will be featured in the "Observe" exhibition at the Art Center College of Design between October 10, 2008 and January 11, 2009, and will then move to the Sprengel Museum in Hanover, Germany.

We Are Stardust

Installation lay-out: In the image above, the projection on the left features skymap markings representing space locations were Spitzer scientists have been collecting data. A red beam sketches out sequential viewings of star locations. A fully rotational infrared camera in exhibition space replays movements of Spitzer telescope viewing of the universe. Far right projection features what the camera is seeing in the exhibition space.

We Are Stardust
Video  arrow

Left Screen Animation: The Universe. The video above is an animation of the map of the universe inscribed with the traces of the Spitzer telescope's observations.

We Are Stardust

Infrared Camera: An animation of the infrared gallery visualization.

About the Spitzer Telescope

The Spitzer telescope was launched on Monday, 25 August, 2003, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It follows a rather unusual orbit, heliocentric instead of geocentric, following Earth in its orbit, and drifting away from Earth at approximately 0.1 astronomical unit per year (a so-called "earth-trailing" orbit). The primary mirror is 85 cm in diameter, f/12 (i.e. the focal length is 12 times the diameter of the primary mirror) and made of beryllium and cooled to 5.5 K. The satellite contains three instruments that will allow it to perform imaging and photometry from 3 to 180 micrometers, spectroscopy from 5 to 40 micrometers, and spectrophotometry from 5 to 100 micrometers.

For more information about the George Legrady Studio and Experimental Visualization Lab,


We Are Stardust is sponsored by the NASA Spitzer Science Center, California Institute of Technology; Williamson Gallery, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena; UC Santa Barbara Faculty Senate Research Grant; Media Arts & Technology, UCSB; The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts; and FLIR Systems.

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