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Mysterium Cosmographicum: traces of Mars

posted on 2016-01-01, 00:00 authored by Daniel Armstrong
Mysterium Cosmographicum: traces of Mars Astronomers live in a state of somnambulism. When the dark blanket of the night sky falls across the world they apply instruments of scientific enquiry and observation, measuring and collecting data while all the time dreaming of things that lie distant and beyond In the summer of 1600, Johannes Kepler was twenty nine years old when he accepted a position as a mathematician for the wealthy and eccentric Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe. Using specially made astronomical instruments Brahe had recorded the most precise data ever relating to the movements of celestial bodies. All of Brahe’s instruments required careful alignments and angular measurement and accurate timings. These instruments were used to record positions as mathematical coordinates. These were not instruments of magnification for the telescope was yet to be invented. Brahe had conceived a model of the universe which was geo-heliocentric, in which the Sun, Moon and the stars circled the Earth with the remaining planets orbiting the Sun. In 1596 Kepler had published a book titled Mysterium Cosmographicum (The Cosmographic Mystery or Secret of the World) in which he advocated for the Copernican model of the cosmos, which proposed that the planets, including the Earth, moved in circular orbits around the Sun. This heliocentric model was yet to be proven and Kepler believed that within the vast data accrued by Brahe this proof lay in waiting. The relationship between Kepler and Brahe was difficult and yet each needed the other to realise their visions. Brahe it seems was jealous of Kepler and would only give him access to the most difficult data to work with which related to the motion of Mars. With tenacity and mathematical brilliance Kepler eventually resolved the confounding records and discovered that the motion of the planets is elliptical and not circular and with this the mathematical proof which validated the Copernican system. The images in this exhibition present long exposure and time-lapse photographs of Mars (the brightest trace) made during May to July 2016 (which includes the closest period of opposition between us and our planetary neighbour). Speculative instruments, which draw inspiration from Brahe’s observatory, are directed to these celestial traces and invite the viewer to align both body and eye and with traces of Mars in an act of observation, imagination and dreaming.



Art Exhibition titled: Kepler's Dream


La Trobe Visual Arts Centre

Place of publication

Bendigo, Vic.

Creation date


Material type





I also gave a lecture at Latrobe Univsersity, Bendigo Campus with the curator for Keplers DReam, Felicity Spear and artists, Sam Leach,about my work titled, Mysterium Cosmographicum: traces of Mars.

Publication classification

J1 Major original creative work

Copyright notice

[2016, Daniel Armstrong]


Art Installation

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