At the end of March 2009 a giant light field of about 40.000 square metres made science a true experience. As a light installation unique in its size for Germany Cosmic Revelation made the energies of cosmic rays visible originating from the depths of space and interacting with our planet. One or two times per seconds the cosmic energies revealed its existence in bright flashy moments over the sixteen „cosmic mirrors“ – light sculptures especially created for the project.

Cosmic Revelation, video documentation, winter 2009, ca. 3 min., mv4 or webm

Any problem with the display or format? Watch the clip in flash format:

The project is an exceptional art & science collaboration between the awarded media artist Tim Otto Roth & the KASCADE experiment at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Cosmic Revelation was presented on Monday 30 March 2009 in occasion of the KASCADE-Grande closure symposium on the North campus of the KIT.

left:: a high energetic cosmic particle triggers in the atmosphere an air shower.
right:: KASCADE detector array showing an "event" triggering all 16 strobes syncrhonously.

It is the language of light telling in Cosmic Revelation about the energies of cosmic rays originating from the depths of space to interfere with the terrestrial atmosphere. One or two times per seconds cosmic energies reveal its existence in bluish flashy moments over the field of sixteen „cosmic mirrors“. Depending of its power and origin single flashes or simultaneously the whole field of light sculptures is unleashed.

Cosmic Flat Rate

Cosmic Revelation shows that, without seeing it directly, we are day by day in the middle of giant astrophysical experiment. That elementary particles with incredible high energies crash in an „event“ and initiate a „shower“ of millions of new particles, this nuclear processes are not only created artificially for instance in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva. Also on earth we get a „flat rate“ of high energetic radiation coming down from space, hitting first the atoms in the atmosphere and finally also our human bodies.

Making the Invisible Visible

Cosmic Revelation makes this hidden exposition to those cosmic energies not only visible, but above all it is translated into a spatial and bodily experience. Sixteen light flash sculptures, the „cosmic mirrors“, are coupled in real time to the detector array of the KASCADE experiment of the KIT Centre for Elementary and Astroparticle Physics (KCETA). On the whole field, which is as big as four soccer pitches (200x200m), 252 gauging stations housed in little cabins are distributed. If a high energetic shower hits a detector unit joining 16 gauging stations it triggers the high power strobe in the „cosmic mirror“ connected with that unit. So the air showers flood the field with lightings of a total power of 24.000 Watts – associations with Walter de Maria’s “The Lightning Field” in New Mexico (1977) are elicited.

"cosmic mirror" sculpture,
stainless steal, coated panel, blue retroreflective foil, mirror foil, convex mirror
ca. 95 mal 30cm

Revelation of Cosmic Energies

The unleashing lights not only make the invisible energies of the particle showers visible, but also its distribution and orientation. There are single flashing units or sometimes a light wave which passes trough the field starting from the direction of its origin. If the whole field of the sixteen "cosmic mirrors" flashes up synchronously, the cascade was perpendicular having an energy corresponding to a particle collision in the LHC in Geneva.


The old event display of KASCADE with its 16 flashing red LEDs gave the initial inspiration for the project. For Cosmic Revelation the online event display is used to control the "cosmic mirrors". The real-time data of the gauging stations are analyzed online. Detecting an event the control software sends a signal (DMX protocol) to the corresponding flash unit. The 16 cosmic mirrors use high power stroboscopes (1500 Watts) which a modified electronic to improve the synchronisation.

left: online event display
right: the LED event display in the central station which gave with its flashing
red LED's the inspiration for the project (Clip: 1,55 Mb)

The cosmic mirrors are a robust construction to protect the strobes against rain. A special mirror construction distributes a well-directed light. The blue retroreflecting top gives an extraordinary dynamic appearance to the sculptures even at day time when the strobes are out of action. The light sculptures were designed by Tim Otto Roth and realized by the workshop of the KIT.

left: cosmic mirror in action at the Karlsruhe University Forum, November 2008
right: the retroreflecting top gives to the sculpture a special dynamic appearance even at daytime

First Light

Because of the online analyzis the field of sixteen "cosmic mirros" can be presented in the KASCADE array, but also remote in other places. The „First Light“ of Cosmic Revelation took place at the University Forum in the heart of the city of Karlsruhe in November 2008. For this occasion a remote installation with the sixteen cosmic mirrors was linked via internet to the KASCADE field to transmit in real time the measured data. Further remote presentations of Cosmic Revelation are planned fort the International Year of Astronomy.

first light:: remote installation at the Karlsruhe Universtity Forum, November 2008

Art & Science as a Push-Program

Cosmic Revelation is a minimalist lightbased artwork and a scientific experiment as well. It oscillates between the reduced pictorial representation of scientific displays and the projection of its pure visibility into the spatial experience of a sculptural installation. The flashing field not only refers to the physical processes in matter, but hints also at the protecting and moderating qualities of the atmosphere as basic condition to create on earth a biosphere.

awarded: KASCADE at the Kunstfassade in Munich, 2005

Already in 2004/05 there was the first art &s science cooperation of KASCADE and Tim Otto Roth. The data of the central calorimeter were transmitted in real-time to the light wall of the Art Façade in Munich. So the visitor could observe on the public colour display covering a whole façade how the distribution of energies of the particle passing the nine iron absorber layers changes. The calorimeter is meanwhile decommissioned.

For the special connection of art & science at the Art Façade Tim Otto Roth was awarded with the International Media Art Award of the Center for Art and Media ZKM Karlsruhe and the Südwestrundfunk. The head of the ZKM Peter Weibel characterizes Tim Otto Roth's pixel trip on the retinas of astro- and particle physics as “a brilliant outpost for a push program - a public understandig of the sciences and humanities“.