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Art and science merge at old Russian space observatory


11-09-2016 02:11 BJT

A space observatory has become the unlikely venue for a contemporary art exhibition in Russia. Called simply 'The Observatory', the show is a blend of contemporary art and science.

High in the mountains of Russia's North Caucasus, the Special Astrophysical Observatory was once the world's largest space telescope, when it opened in 1971.

It was the result of an ambitious programme to put Russian astronomers ahead in the race to see into outer space.

Artists from Russia and Austria were given open access to the formerly secret installation and created works reflecting their view of life, history and the cosmos as seen from this remote valley.

Yevgeny Shentsov has worked at the Observatory for over 30 years, studying 'Hyper-giants' the largest, most luminous stars in the universe, and discovering two himself.

"People here have got brains, they can process information, they are able to discover stuff, no question, but without a material base, without new telescopes and spectrographs, we can't survive," Yevgeny Shentsov said.

Former observatory director Yuri Balega says things are more stable now, though they live from grant to grant provided by the Russian Academy of Sciences.

He wants investment to develop the coding and electronic engineering skills used to interpret astronomical data collected by the Observatory telescope. However, he is sure the astrophysicists will keep doing their work regardless.

"You see we are astronomers here, we can do only this work, nothing more, only science, only astronomy. So all people who live here in this village they are enthusiastic, they are slightly crazy with their science because of their activity and their fanatic tendency to observe, to study the universe, to study the stars and galaxies, only because of that we are still alive and we can continue," said Yuri Balega, former Observatory director.

'The Observatory' contemporary art show wanted to bring the worlds of art and science together in the valley.

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