This was my piece that was included in the Terra Incognita exhibition at Curious Matter.
|Eridanus Supervoid: |
8 3/4 “w x 6” h x 3 1/4” d
paper, rubber, glass, steel wire, archival mat board , acrylic paint, wood
During the 2nd century AD, Ptolemy rearranged the skies. He plotted and named many new constellations from stars that were ignored or unseen by the ancients. One such constellation that Ptolemy observed and named was Eridanus.
Eridanus is a meandering line of stars beginning at Orion and winding past Cetus in the southern hemisphere. It is best seen in the winter. Its name transliterates from the Greek as “early burnt,” or “early river.” It is most associated with the myth of Phaeton (the Shining One), the son of Helios. The boy had pleaded with his father to allow him to drive the chariot of the sun. With trepidation Helios relented and the father’s fears proved true. Phaeton was unable to control the solar horses. The team veered wildly from their arced course; sometimes so close to the Earth that it became scorched, sometimes so far away that the land froze. To save mankind from destruction, Zeus hurled a bolt of lightening at the hapless boy and shot Phaeton from the sky. The body of the youth landed in the Eridanus River. There have been many attempts to determine which river is meant by the Eridanus, with the Po in northern Italy as a main contender. However, Eridanus is a river of myth and its location resides in the stories of our past.
In 2007, modern astronomers began mapping the cosmic microwave background radiation, which is residual energy remaining from the Big Bang. In the direction of the Eridanus constellation was found a huge area, of 50 million to one billion light years across that was significantly cooler than the surrounding area. Immediately, theories abounded about what could be causing this anomaly. One particular theory that had the scientific community excited was that it represented a place where our universe was in contact (or had been in contact) with another parallel universe. Further investigation and research has led astronomers to believe that instead of being an exotic place of two universes touching, the cold spot in question was a massive supervoid in space. That is, a place in the distribution of intergalactic material where there is no matter – not even dark matter.
On Earth we cannot point to the river that caught the doomed Phaeton. Yet, an immense hole in the fabric of space lies where it is told that Phaeton was knocked out of the sky by the might of Zeus. The Phaeton myth can be interpreted as an ancient explanation for a meteor that exploded before impact with the ground, but an actual hole in space brings new meaning to the story. There are many voids in the universe, each attributable to the uneven distribution of the stars in the universe as determined by the laws of physics. But, once in a while natural forces will interact with supernatural forces to form a new reality. Perhaps this void is a remnant not of a place not yet filled with star matter, but a place where the hands of the gods show their power.