grismThe facade and the lawn of the Palazzo Franchetti are being illuminated with projections of observations from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) one of the greatest and most important scientific instruments which has operated now for more than 20 years. Made with one of Hubble's prime instruments, the Advanced Camera for Surveys (AVS), these unique observations include some of the most distant objects in the Universe.

grismIn addition to the exquisite images for which Hubble is so famous, the cameras can be fitted with prism-like devices, called "grims", that spread the light from distant galaxies and quasars as well as nearby stars into a band of colour called a spectrum. These spectra, some of which are being projected to the facade, can be analysed to yield a wealth of information about objects that are so far away and so faint that they will not reveal their secrets in any other way available to astronomers at present time. In many cases, these observations provide a measure of the distance to the object which tells us that we are looking into the very distant past. Some of these faint objects are being seen as they were when the Universe was less than 10% of its current age of 13.7 billion years.

The Space Telescope Euorpean Coordinating Facility (ST-ECF) in Munich, Germany, has recently released into the Hublle archive a set of more than 47.000 individual spectra. This is the largest collection of its kind ever created and will become a rich resource for astronomers. In Venice is shown a selection of around 1400 spectra.

Translating spectra into a laser projection

It is quite at hand to use the graphical medium of a laser to translate spectra into a projection. Reminiscent of an oscilloscope, the laser was used to translate the spectral coordinates into the wave pattern. This was achieved by a python-based interface developed by Benjamin Staude, that computes the laser coordinates from the spectra and directly sends them to the laser projector, thereby avoiding the use of intricate commercial laser software. 

Benjamin Staude setting up a laser test in the Franchetti Palace

The artist

Once Tim Otto Roth was „assigned“ as a photon catcher by the German astronomer Harald Lesch. In general, the question how light is bound into an image is one of the driving forces in the artist’s career.
The German artist is renowned for his large science & art projects in public spaces. He has collaborated with many scientific institutions around the world, such as CERN in Geneva, the Library of Alexandria and the arctic Koldewey research station at Spitsbergen. He has explored and developed a rich common ground for artists & astrophysicists who have different concepts of colour but a very long tradition of creating pictures.

In 2003, he started his first project related to astronomy with a public light façade in Munich. For his pixel trip on the retinas of particle and astrophysics he was awarded the International Media Art Award by the Center for Art and Media ZKM Karlsruhe in 2004. In the very same year he visited as the first artist the Paranal Observatory of the European Southern Observatories (ESO) in Chile. A residency at the ESO headquarter Garching in 2009 resulted finally in the collaboration with Bob Fosbury reflecting the origins of the colours in the universe.

Tim Otto Roth & Bob Fosbury at ESO Garching in 2009

Much attention was given to his project oscillating between particle and astrophysics: "Cosmic Revelation". This transformed the cosmic ray detector array of the KASCADE experiment at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology into a giant flashing light field of 40 000 sq m. The Oxford Professor Martin Kemp has summarised Roth’s novel concepts bridging art and science:„A new art is encoding a new science.“ [Nature 458, 836].


Tim Otto Roth's main website:

Bob Fosbury's webpage:

Ancient Starlight Meets Space-age Technology, announcement on

ST-ECF ACS/WFC Grism: Final Release

Related projects

colours of the universeColours of the Universe, hydrogen gaz light scultpure 2008

art & science at Kunstfassade MünchenSN 1997ff shot by HST at the Art Facade in Munich, 2003/04
English, 5,5 min., Quicktime, 8,0 Mbdeutsch, 6,5 min., Quicktime, 9,8 Mb