Using time to map space

Published on 28 January 2021

Scientists collaboration with artists to map structures around newborn stars

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a black and white image showing spectral lines

Star and planet formation scientists are working with artists to map stars and space which are so small the most powerful telescopes are unable to detect.

‘Reading between the (spectral) lines’ is a project lead by Dr Aurora Sicilia Aguilar, from the department of Physics, with the aim of communicating the scientific process behind time-resolved spectroscopy techniques to a broad spectrum of public through art.

“The environment around young, forming stars is key for the formation of planets and Exosolar Systems. Stars form together with a disk, which feeds the star in its earlier stages, and any planets that may be forming,” explains Dr Sicilia Aguilar.

“The planet-disk connection may affect whether the star will be active, and whether the planets may migrate and fall onto the star.”

The collaboration also involves Adam Lockhart, curator at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design and UK artist duo Semiconductor.

The art-science collaboration includes a wall-based electronic installation which demonstrates the tiny structures around newborn stars.

“We want to encourage the public to apply new ideas to mapping what is almost invisible, and to raise awareness amongst the science community about what art-science collaborations can achieve,” said Dr Sicilia Aguilar.

It will be exhibited later this year at Mills Observatory, NEoN Digital Arts Festival 2021 and Scottish Universities Physics Alliance(SUPA) Cormack Astronomy Meeting 2021.

The project has been funded in part by a STFC research grant and the STFC SPARK Public Engagement initiative.