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→太陽系のそと:銀河系
(2007-12-22)

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Beyond our solar system

From The Works of Living World @ STARNET ZONE (Mashiko, 2005)

This is a 3D model of the Milky Way galaxy.
The title “Beyond our solar system” refers to the layout, which places the solar system in the very center of this 150mm square cube.

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Data for 80,000 fixed stars based on information from the National Astronomical Observatory in Mitaka is represented here in three-dimensional form. Most of us have a surprisingly two-dimensional image of galaxies, so find this 3D representation novel and instantly absorbing.

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In the very center of this are our solar system, Earth, and us. And outside stretches a world like this.

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It reminded us how empty space really is. One also hears though that even where at a glance there is nothing, in fact there is interstellar matter, and mass of a sort. Is it like the connection between clouds and water vapor? Even so, on this scale there is over a meter to the Magellanic Clouds, the galaxies closest to us. With no fixed stars in between.

The model was fabricated by marking the interior with a laser, with data for 80,000 fixed stars plotted in three dimensions.
The data for the project was assembled by Yukio Ando, a friend who had helped us previously with projects such as COLORS (2004) at Minato Mirai Station. He worked with two of us from LW – debating this and that along the way – to construct the model.

One great aspect of making things like this is the fun you have learning about the world. In that sense, creating things at LW is a bit like writing a report on an expedition. We love venturing into fathomless realms and giving tangible expression to what we have seen, what has caught our attention, and what has captured our imaginations.

What captured our imaginations again on this occasion was the fact that space is mainly just that: space.
The Milky Way is said to have around 200 billion fixed stars (although some say 400 billion?), but around this, there are no stars at all. Just a vast void between there and the nearest galaxies: the Magellanic Clouds and Andromeda.
Working on this project, the extremes of vast empty space and density of which Charles and Ray Eames’ Powers of Ten gives a glimpse felt very real.

One other fascinating thing about this project was that while we think we know what a galaxy looks like, in fact no one yet knows the exact shape. Through Takahashi-san, a friend at the Yamanashi Prefectural Science Center, we learned that an army of researchers is still using various techniques including satellites, radio telescopes, infrared exploration and theoretical physics to approach the mysteries of the Milky Way from a multitude of angles.

I was impressed to learn that even the shape of a galaxy, something we believe to be self-evident, is in fact still at the stage of world maps in the Age of Exploration.

with Yukio Ando(exa)
Data: 4D2UProject (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan)

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