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Spectra

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In 1913 the astronomer V. S. Slipher, working at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, was taking photographs of light coming from nebulae with a spectrometer. These “spectrograms” were made in order to understand the speed at which nebulae are moving. He found that the light coming from the nebulae was shifted toward the red end of the spectrum, known as a “red shift” indicating that they are moving away from us. He refrained from an interpretation, and it wasn’t until three years later that William de Sitter proposed a theory of an expanding universe using the spectrograms as evidence. Thus the spectrograms, the first measurements ever made of the velocity of nebulae also became the first evidence to support the theory of what came to be called the Big Bang which, in turn, became the first “story” of the creation of the universe based on independently verifiable phenomenon.

“The Spectra series is the sculptural embodiment of two shifts — one physical and one ideological. First, there is the red shift of nebulae as a measurement of the expansion of the Universe. Second there is the ideological shift that the recognition of this phenomenon begat — a shift away from “divine” creation stories toward a scientific understanding of the origin of the Universe.” (E. Crenson – www.fuse-works.com)

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