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The Breath of Stars

By  Susan Eyre 2022 - 2023

The Breath of Stars is a digital video work activated in real time by the passage of cosmic rays through a scintillator detector. From the heart of exploding stars or the depths of black holes these particles power across the universe with unimaginable energy. Some may come from phenomenon yet to be discovered or even from other dimensions. Travelling at close to the speed of light cosmic rays spiral along magnetic field lines, strike the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, break apart and shower down upon us. Some particles collide and silently interact with atoms and technology on Earth. Most cosmic rays heading for Earth are deflected by our magnetic field and without this protection life on Earth could not survive this bombardment of radioactive matter. 

The kaleidoscopic video images, that appear for every particle recorded by the detector, are created from footage of cosmic ray trails filmed in a cloud chamber. Cosmic Rays arrive randomly and this can be witnessed by the sudden flurries and silent gaps of the video imagery.

The cosmic ray detector works on the basis that when a charged particle passes through a scintillating material, part of its energy is absorbed and re-emitted as photons. A light sensitive silicon photo-multiplier (SiPM) coupled to the scintillator observes these photons. A single photon can make a measurable signal in the SiPM which is recorded using an Arduino Nano. As each pulse is recorded the particular energy released is measured and data is sent to a further mini computer which activates the projection animation. 

Around 95% of the universe is ‘dark’ to us, formed of unknown and possibly unknowable matter which may be inaccessible to us, but cosmic rays offer a tangible contact with outer space. Our ancestors mapped the stars and the shapes they drew across the darkness became familiar anchors for navigation; mythological characters and portents for the fortunes of everyday life. Today we have the opportunity to gaze beyond and between the stars the early humans saw to gain an insight into the structures of the cosmos. When we bring the unseen out of the shadows we open up the imagination to dream of other worlds and possibilities.

prettier-ignore-start Yhpol7hhiemfxarvts9g prettier-ignore-end Susan Eyre

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