Pinpoint

Pinpoint is a set of three drum chandelier sculptures. Thousands of lighted pinpoints pouring from the drilled aluminum plates encourage viewers to contemplate the source, distance and meaning of light while the glowing celestial objects along each sculpture’s periphery remind of us of the mystery of the universe.

These stunning sculptures are the result of a two-year, interdisciplinary collaboration among the arts, sciences, and education communities. Made possible with a Creative Campus Innovation Grant from the Curb Center at Vanderbilt University, Pinpoint not only provides beautiful and mysterious works of art, it also literally illuminates astronomical discoveries and enhances educational outreach initiatives. The aluminum plates are from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey project, which measured light from extremely distant objects. The printed images are both original and artist renditions of astronomical images collected by and for Vanderbilt.

Artists Adrienne Outlaw and Tony Youngblood, along with Vanderbilt Astronomy Professor David Weintraub and Vanderbilt University’s Dyer Observatory Professional Outreach Astronomer Billy Teets collaborated on the project. Astronomers Andreas Berlind, Robert Lupton, Didier Saumon and Robert Siverd provided assistance and images.

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The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) plates were used to obtain stellar spectra, which included collecting light from over three million extremely distant galaxies and quasars. Each of the 5,000 SDSS plates, which when used were placed at the focal plane of the Apache Point Telescope in New Mexico, has 640-1,000 small holes. Light from different celestial objects passed through these uniquely placed holes into optical fibers, which carried the light into spectrometers.  The spectrometers were used to measure and analyze the spectra of the galaxies and quasars.  These spectra enable astronomers to measure the distances to these objects, which together with the positions of the objects are used to measure the three-dimensional structure of the universe (see www.sdss.org).