My Explorers of the Universe exhibition has been on tour, showing at the Centre for Life in Newcastle, Glasgow Science Centre, Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork (Ireland), Space City, Portsmouth. It is now at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, with the Planck and Herschel satellites.
A PAIR of city astronomers are among the stars of a new international photographic exhibition that has gone on show in Cardiff.
Acclaimed photographer Max Alexander spent a year capturing the personalities of both professional and amateur astronomers through portraits highlighting the value of discoveries and the minds behind them.
The Explorers of the Universe exhibition includes images of Cardiff University researchers Professor Derek Ward-Thompson and Dr Haley Gomez, alongside the likes of Professor Stephen Hawking and Sir Patrick Moore.
The photographs are being exhibited at Cardiff’s National Museum, having originally opened at London’s Royal Albert Hall and travelled as far afield as the Netherlands.
Mr Alexander photographed Prof Ward-Thompson, who studies how stars and planets came into being, at Cardiff University by the dome of a new telescope.
The second Cardiff portrait subject, Dr Gomez, is one of a generation of young scientists researching the thin mist of gas and dust between stars.
Mr Alexander said: “Hayley is surrounded by a cloud of dust – I photographed her in a quarry near Cardiff. It was a freezing January morning, it was actually one of the coldest days of the year. Her husband is also a professional astronomer at Cardiff University. We hired a leaf blower and he kicked up some big clouds of dust.”
He added: “I hope that viewers will be enlightened and uplifted by this extraordinary, committed group of people and what they discover about the universe.
“Scientists need to have a higher profile in society if we want to advance our knowledge of the universe and attract future generations to careers in science.”
Dr Gomez said: “Max has really captured the personalities behind the big science questions with these photographs. It’s great to show the public that astronomers are ordinary people from all walks of life, and above all passionate about what they do.
“What Max has done that is really, really good is to try to interpret what we do in our jobs in a photograph. In the photographs you try to figure out what they are interested in – some are really arty and beautiful, some are really obvious.
“It’s nice that there are Welsh people in the exhibition and it’s great that there are lots of girls in there too. That wasn’t something Max did on purpose, that shows we are moving away from the old days of physics being dominated by guys.”
Accompanying the portraits are large models of the Herschel space observatory, which explores the universe with infrared wavelengths, and the Planck space observatory, which maps remaining radiation from the Big Bang. Both Dr Gomez and Prof Ward-Thompson are heavily involved in both missions.
From the formation of stars and planets to the behaviour of the largest groups of galaxies, Prof Ward-Thompson’s work on Herschel has helped provide images of the universe in unprecedented detail.
Dr Gomez, meanwhile, is among a team of scientists from South Wales which has helped prove that ultraviolet starlight is a key ingredient for making water in the atmosphere of some stars.
Explorers of the Universe runs until November 28 at the National Museum in Cathays Park. There will be an opportunity to hear from Max, Dr Gomez and other Cardiff University researchers on Saturday at 1pm.