13” x 10 3⁄4”
cotton, crystal and glass beads
Currently Hanging: Zeitgeist Gallery, Beverly, MA
In November of 2013, during an open studios event in Somerville, MA, I was literally handed inspiration.
Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist working at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics as part of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory at Harvard, was very enthusiastic about my NASA-inspired needlework. The day after our initial brief but animated conversation, he presented me with the source image for this piece. I was struck by its dynamic nature and the sheer scope of this particular galaxy, and within two weeks had begun the process of rendering it in thread.
The scale and power of this particular galaxy is enormous. It is 370,000 light years across; for comparison, our own Milky Way is 100,000 light years wide and our solar system is only 2 light-years in diameter at its furthest gravitational limits. M82 is also 11 million light years away - what we see now when we gaze at M82 is how it actually looked during the Miocene Epoch, just after the development of grassland ecosystems and 5 million years before a mammoth ever took a step on the Earth.
M82 shows off a new supernova, on average every 10 years or so, which is much more energetic than most galaxies. The clouds of gas and dust which form the center “cigar” shape (which is also this galaxy’s nickname) are shot out of the galaxy at millions of kilometers per hour. The vast amounts of energy contained this one beautiful little spot in the cosmos appealed to me.
The source image is a composite, from three separate telescopes (Chandra, Spitzer, and Hubble), it shows x-ray (blue), infrared (red), and visible light (green, orange).
Source image credit: NASA/CXC/JHU/D.Strickland. Optical team: NASA/ESA/STSci/AURA/M. Mountain & the Hubble Heritage Team; IR team: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of AZ/C.Engelbracht & R. Kennart
M82 - Star Detail
M82 - close angle