Sloan Digital Sky Survey
In the Spring of 2018 I was appointed as Artist in Residence for The Sloan Digital Sky Survey. SDSS is an international collaboration that has been working since 2000 to create the most detailed three-dimensional map of the Universe ever made. Viewing the sky from twin telescopes in New Mexico and Chile – one in each hemisphere – the SDSS has captured colour images of more than one-third of the entire sky, and measured the compositions and distances of more than three million stars and galaxies.
Now in its fourth phase, the SDSS continues to improve its map by measuring distances to more distant galaxies than ever before, collecting infrared spectra of hundreds of thousands of stars in our own galaxy, and mapping the full internal structure of hundreds of nearby galaxies. It is this last project, known as Mapping Nearby Galaxies from Apache Point Observatory (MaNGA), that first connected my work with the SDSS.
Dr Anne-Marie Weijmans of the University of St Andrews and the director of the Shine project is also Data Release Coordinator for the SDSS and, following my own visits to the observatory at Apache Point and to talk about the work at the State University of New Mexico, this has led to various other connections to New Mexico which has become something of a second home to the Shine project.
The SDSS telescope at night
Image Credit: Patrick Gaulme
Detail of telescope observing plate