For the past few years my department has hosted an annual art show to showcase the various scientific and extrascientific artistic endeavors of students and faculty. This year I submitted a stitched-together domeflat from the dataset I’m working with—an image taken of an evenly lit telescope dome interior to better understand the imperfections of the telescope CCD. Since astronomy has a hard-earned reputation as the prettiest of the physics disciplines I thought it would really bring the hammer of day-to-day tedium down on people’s expectations. Take THAT for assuming I’d give you something that looked good just because this is an art show! Here is the image and description I submitted:
This image, taken of the inside of the Subaru Telescope dome on Mauna Koa Hawaii poses the question: what is the nature of perception? Used to calibrate the properties of the telescope’s CCD cameras, the observers image a pure white field— thus, the emergent imperfections challenge the viewer to confront the fractured ways in which they view the world. Moreover, although the gaps in between CCDs create the appearance of windowpanes, the context is of a confined indoor space—a claustrophobic response to the telescope’s true potential and a visceral reminder of the futility of science to observe the substance of the soul.
The inability of the camera to detect the edges of its frame demonstrates the inner hollowness of incomplete perspective. Are the didactic shackles of technology forcing a naturally circular field of view to be confined to a formalist rectangle? Or are we seeing a hi-fidelity instrument in a lo-fi world? What began as a white field, now viewed in ashen shades, confounds the arrêt d’annulation of the reality versus art paradigm.