Review: In The Marlborough Night Garden

Jonathan Genton pictured during the exhibition

Category: Events, General, Academic

It is a rare occurrence that one has the opportunity to see what is out there. Not so by travelling to the far corners of the earth, or looking up and seeing the moon, but seeing objects that are up to 23 million light years from our very own galaxy.

The prize-winning astrophotographer Gavin James, along with Jonathan Genton, Chris Underhill and Sophie Crane (Pate’s Grammar School), Elen Hughes (Dame Alice Owen’s School), and the help of 30 astronomers from the College have facilitated the beauty behind the science of space in an exhibition where the title can only reflect the truth – ‘In the Marlborough Night Garden’. Situated in a garden in Marlborough is a camera, which when applied to specialist telescopic instruments and dedicated computer software can produce images of such clarity and distinction, giving us the richest sense of a glimpse of space. Over the course of the exhibition, more than 800 people visited the Mount House Gallery to view the images, including the UK Space Agency who asked ‘Where next?’ Gavin and Jonathan plan to take the exhibition to at least three other schools in the country.

GALLERY: In The Marlborough Night Garden

The collection of images, and working demonstrations of astrophysical terms from Chris Tasker highlight three astronomical objects, clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. The cluster images portray the two types in which they form, globular and open. Each picture demonstrates the central gravitational system that holds clusters together, and one can identify individual stars in each brightly illuminated image. The vivid colours of the nebulae (mostly induced by the excited elements Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Sulfur in these vast interstellar clouds of dust) create a sense of a three dimensional image, and it is even possible to see through the least dense parts of the nebulae and view stars on the other side of this galactic giant; it is the beauty of form that makes these objects so exquisitely detailed. The images of galaxies begin to address more questions the longer you look at them; “if there is a black hole at the centre of Messier 31 (Andromeda Galaxy), then why can’t you see it?”. The answer is that through the gravitational force and radiation absorption the nucleus of the galaxy is extracting through the black hole, making the stars more concentrated at that point, emitting a larger volume of light radiation.

Through viewing such colossal and complex astrophysical objects, one inevitably questions the origins of such articles. A philosophy student at the College who saw the exhibition said that the “blurred lines between philosophy and physics were becoming ever more transparent”. The exhibition gives way to a unique footage of images that are beautifully scientific, and that allow people to see space in an aesthetic and thought-provoking way. Regardless of your beliefs, you are left safely in the knowledge that what you see in the collection of images really is out there.

Adam Staines

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