Star Dancers

Star Dancers is a project by Californian artist Daniel Oberti, and Swedish astronomer Maria Sundin. Star Dancers - a project combining cutting edge research in astrophysics with the ancient art of ceramics. Our work illustrates the important and essential relationship between art and science. The science provides facts and principals that help our intellect grasp the physical nature and complexity of things, while visual art that deals with these subjects provides interpretation and inspiration leading toward a deeper aesthetic, spiritual, and metaphysical understanding.

One of the first Star Dancers platters produced was this blue/green ceramic platter showing the dance of a star in a barred spiral galaxy. What we call the dance of the star is the computer simulated orbit of a star.

A galaxy is a huge collection of some hundred billion stars, and a typical disk shaped galaxy has a diameter of 100 000 light years. The difference between a normal spiral galaxy (above, left) and a barred spiral galaxy (above, right) is that the barred galaxy has a bar shaped centre.

Research on galaxies can be done through observations and computer simulations. A galaxy evolves on time scales of hundreds of million years. These very long time scales can be studied in animations based on the computer simulations.

Above are some time frames from a computer simulation of a barred galaxy. Some 50 million years pass between each frame! Compare the bar shaped centre with the picture of a real galaxy above, right.

A bar is built by stars moving on a number of intricate orbits. When Daniel Oberti saw these, he exclaimed "These are like dancing stars! Star Dancers!" In the scientific figures, he discovered beauty and our project was born. Not many people are aware of the fascinating orbits that stars can follow.

Did you know that stars can move like this? (picture above) The reason for the complicated movements of the stars is that the stars move in a curved space. Einstein told us that gravity curves space, and the mass distribution in a barred galaxy causes space to have a complicated curvature.

After a vast amount of email conversation, Daniel started sketching the computer simulated orbits on large ceramic platters. He added small figures, the true star dancers, who appear on all platters. The star dancers give a sense of motion and a human connection to the universe and the science.

Early in year 2000, the first coloured Star Dancer platters were finished. Above (left) we see the computer simulated orbit of a star. This picture exists in scientific peer reviewed papers. Above (right) we see one of the Star Dancers platters showing the same orbit. What a different way to present science to the public!

Some Star Dancer platters from 2001. Daniel Oberti started to experiment with colours, shapes and the dancers became elaborate.

The star dancer figures grew in size on the platters.

Above is a recent Public Art commission by Daniel Oberti, and a close up showing a Star Dancer. The collaboration with a scientist has been of great value and added depth and scope to Daniel's artistic career and to the content of his art. The Star Dancer has grown in scope and importance in every aspect of his new and current work. Maria Sundin has used the Star dancers project in a large number of public talks, and they have appeared in several articles in daily newspapers and magazines. Science and art in collaboration!

Updated June 28, 2002

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