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Cosmic Dust Collection {Extraterrestrial Smithereens}


Busan Biennale, Busan, South Korea


Cosmic Dust Collection (Extraterrestrial Smithereens), 2010
Busan Biennale
Busan, South Korea

Cosmic Dust Collection (Extraterrestrial Smithereens) takes the form of adapted satellite dishes working to collect Interplanetary Dust Particles (IDP’s) as they continuously rain down through earth’s outer atmosphere.


An average of 4,000 tons of this near-invisible extraterrestrial matter enters our atmosphere every year — each particle no more than 0.1mm in size. Interstellar dust flows through the solar system and enters our atmosphere daily, offering a tangible, physical link between our planetary system and the stars.


Satellite dishes act here not to transmit and receive microwaves but to accumulate a near imperceptible physical material. A cluster of satellite dishes point directly skyward, adapting a very simple technology used to collect IDP’s. This technology was developed by Dr. Kenneth A. Farley, a Geologist and Planetary Science Professor at the California Institute of Technology. In the late 1990’s Farley’s system was developed alongside more sophisticated technology, and despite its simplicity it results in the collection of space dust.


The apparatus uses strong rare-earth magnets to which the cosmic dust is attracted due to its high magnetism. The water acts as a catchment area — pumps submerged in the satellite dishes agitate the water so that any magnetic material passes over the plastic-coated magnet and becomes fixed. Terrestrial material with magnetic properties is also collected (airborne rust particles etc.) these are later burnt off in a laboratory, thus leaving only the extraterrestrial material.


In a cabinet sits a sample of Cosmic Dust from the Centre de Spectrométrie Nucléaire et de Spectrométrie de Masse (CSNSM) — Center Nuclear Spectrometry and of Mass Spectrometry, Paris, France.


These omnipresent Interplanetary Dust Particles evoke an image of an invisible accumulative mass — planetary in scale, of infiltration and chaos; scale and distance; the ambition to gather something microscopic from the vast expanse of the atmosphere and beyond; and the presence of outer-space in our own atmosphere, and our location in its vastness.


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