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Dark matter shines at Dublin gallery

11/08/2020 3481 views 8 likes
ESA / Space in Member States / Ireland

A glittering visualisation of dark matter by Dutch artist Thijs Biersteker of Woven Studio is on display in the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin.

The gallery has reopened after the restrictions imposed as part of the coronavirus pandemic were lifted and has taken steps to ensure the safety of its visitors.

The installation – ‘Dark Distortions’ – was inspired by Euclid, a forthcoming ESA mission to study the mysterious nature of dark matter.

Dark matter is thought to make up 85% of the universe. It cannot be seen directly, but cosmologists think it exists because there is far too little visible matter in each galaxy to prevent the galaxies from flying apart. Because galaxies do not fly apart, they must contain some invisible component that keeps them coherent. This invisible stuff is called “dark matter”. Large concentrations of it have sufficient mass to bend light.

In response, Thijs Biersteker has created a dynamic artwork in collaboration with ESA and Leiden University in the Netherlands.

The installation consists of a constellation of moving lenses that bend light just as massive concentrations of dark matter bend light. It has layers of lenses on lenses, which represent the way in which dark matter is thought to accumulate in a fractal-like pattern.

Henk Hoekstra of Leiden University, who is the cosmology coordinator of the Euclid mission, helped to inspire the work.

He says: “Cosmologists have a model of the universe that is very abstract – the concept of dark matter is very different to how humans actually experience the world.

“This installation envisages the invisible. It takes the abstraction and connects it to our human experience.”

Thijs Biersteker says: “Told in a techno-poet way, the artwork pays homage to how cutting-edge science can reveal the unseen. In the artwork, art and science come together in a magical and compelling way.”

‘Dark Distortions’ forms part of a free exhibition called Invisible at the Science Gallery Dublin that combines art, physics and philosophy and runs until 25 October.