This summer, the London-based science collective Super/Collider is calling on all creatives for their expedition to the Swedish wilderness to witness a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event: the transit of Venus. Travelling to a remote point amidst the forests of northern Sweden, they will be inviting filmmakers, photographers and artists to document the unique experience. Participants will witness the planet Venus pass across the face of the sun – a rare cosmic alignment that only happens twice every 113 years, meaning this will be the last chance to see it in our lifetime.
Transits of Venus are special because they're so rare... this will be the last one before December 2117
As the spectacle will only be visible from certain places on earth, Super/Collider will be heading to the location of Floda 31, a laboratory surrounded by ancient forests just south of the Arctic Circle. There, in the near-24 hour sunshine of the summer months, participants are invited to observe, collaborate, and undertake creative projects. Here we speak to Chris Hatherill of Super/Collider about the upcoming expedition to find out more...
Dazed Digital: Of all the astronomical phenomena that occur, why is this one so special or of particular relevance today?
Chris Hatherill: Transits of Venus are special because they're so rare – this will be the last one before December 2117. Although not as spectacular as, say, a total eclipse, the beauty lies in seeing Venus' perfect disc pass across the sun, and in seeing our solar system revolving before your eyes. The Transits of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries played an important role in astronomy, and by studying the way the planet blocks the sun's light, scientists might be able to improve the methods they use to observe planets orbiting more distant stars.
DD: Why are you calling on creatives in particular to head out to this transit? Will this be an educational journey or is the focus on the artistic aspect?
Chris Hatherill: The expedition will be a combination of education and creativity. Since we'll be the last people to see the Transit for some time, we'd like to encourage film, photography and other art projects that capture not only the alignment itself, but the experience of seeing it in a remote wilderness high above the world, in the run-up to midsummer when the sun will shine through the night.
To prepare people, we'll be visiting the local observatory, doing some talks and preparing viewing equipment to make sure we don't miss anything. Appropriately for 2012, Venus was very important to the Mayans, so I like the idea of combining southern and northern folk traditions as we observe through the night.
DD: What is it about Umeå that makes it an optimal spot to view the transit?
Chris Hatherill: Our site near Umeå isn't the ideal place on earth as we'll miss the very beginning of the Transit – to see the entire 6 hour and 40 minute event you can go to East Asia, Australia or the Pacific islands. There are a bunch of pricey cruises you can do, but for us it's more about being with like-minded people in a beautiful place. Our collaborators at Floda31 have an excellent site and we're working with them on a couple of collaborations that will make it a very special place to be.
DD: What other projects are you working on at the moment?
Chris Hatherill: We're currently building an organic particle accelerator for the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, and planning a pre-Transit party in London in May so that people can come learn all about it before they go – or how to observe it for themselves.
Worlds in Transit Expedition: 'A journey to the land of the midnight sun to discover our true place in the solar system' - 4-8 June 2012 / Umeå, Sweden. For more information and to register your interest, visit http://www.super-collider.com/transit
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