About this project
Showing the universe as art is an admission that the truth is sufficiently beautiful and that it deserves our attention. The Black Rock Observatory will be a mobile observatory dedicated to the celebration of art and science.
Rather than build an observatory for research and measurement, we choose to build one for the public as art and a celebration of science. As modern astronomy moves ahead, the telescope is seldom used visually. Cameras and spectrographs have separated us from seeing the universe with our own eyes. We intend to show the public the joy, immediacy and beauty of our solar system and universe with telescopes.
The observatory consists of two 21 foot domes built with interlocking CNC cut plywood and inhabited by instruments for viewing and sensing the universe. Balls viewing spheres from orbs on a globe. The sphere is the universe's answer to the form problem. Orbs above; orbs below. Echoes of the outer planets, the domes lie in a remote space requiring skills, effort and patience to reach. Eyeballs and color coded lasers fondle the planets overhead while 'zards, 'nauts and 'bots conduct experiments below.
At Burning Man 2014, on the outer playa, curious Burners will approach spherical structures with a strange but familiar form. Two globular domes designed by architect Gregg Fleishman will beckon like plywood planets of Finland Birch. They’ll discover a telescope 10 feet tall where they can view planets, distant nebula and galaxies. Participants will rotate the dome manually and work together for an unobstructed view. At night, they’ll be invited from miles away by high powered lasers pointing out planets and distant targets from an Open Sky Planetarium. Like bubbles in the fabric of space time, structures on a sheet beckon.
This year, the Desert Wizards of Mars are teaming up with Jedi master architect Gregg Fleishman to bring the citizens of Black Rock City a place to contemplate their place in the universe. We're creating a gallery for time, physics, astronomy, geometry and symmetry. Gregg has been experimenting with slotted plywood construction for over forty years. His use of cubic symmetry allows him to build complex structures made completely of interlocking wood, with no nails, screws or metal fasteners of any kind. Fleishman uses geometry like a wizard to bring beautiful forms, elegance, sustainability and portability together into his amazing designs. His workshop looks like the Kama Sutra for Birch trees. His structures are gorgeous to behold, easy to assemble and they last for years.
Gregg's Burning Man evolution started when he designed and built the first structure in the Walk In Area, the Otic Oasis, at Burning Man 2011, offering citizens a refuge from the din and a quiet space to replenish themselves. His Burning Man journey then led to the Pistil within the Man base in 2012, comprising the very center of the city. It was a means to ascend and to understand Fertility. Echoing this movement, he built a pyramid in 2013. Last year's Temple of Whollyness served as our spiritual center at 12 o' clock on the map and the apex of our city. Gregg created a truly sacred place where our community could come together, meditate, pray, pay tribute and let go. Gregg Fleishman's art made a pilgrimage from the city to the temple and is now continuing on into the white-out void of deep playa and into quiet black void of deep space.
The shape of our dome is a 26-sided Archimedean solid. The Small Rhombicuboctahedron is made up of 18 squares and 8 triangles in its spherical form. It was first identified by Archimedes, but never drawn until Leonardo da Vinci drew the image below left in 'De Divina Proportione', printed in 1509.
Drawing from this geometry, Gregg has designed a place where we can open up to the universe but also a building system that will allow our domes to stand 15 feet tall and 20 feet in diameter, yet still pack down within 8' x 4' x 4'. While Burning Man is our primary mission, the dome can be built in less than a day and taken down in less than an hour, allowing us to rebuild the dome at festivals, science outreach events, star parties, observatories and city parks where we can bring the wonders of the universe to the people.
Gregg has lived in Culver City for almost 50 years and is contributing his skills to four projects on the Playa this year. His groundbreaking construction techniques are perfectly suited for the conditions of the Black Rock Desert and his creations look stunning there rising from the dust. His work has been shown in the Museum of Modern Art (NY), Yale University Art Gallery, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among many more.
The Desert Wizards of Mars are a collective of artists, scientists, engineers, makers and doers based in Los Angeles with members in Nevada, Arizona, New York, Germany and all over the universe. The group constructed the Los Angeles C.O.R.E. project Seraphim and they also also built the regional effigy, The Human Spirit for the inaugural L.A. regional burn, BEquinox in 2013. Many of our members helped build the L.A. C.O.R.E. project, SCARAB truck and Chronos at Bequinox: Mythos 2014.
In 2013, The Desert Wizards constructed a tribute to the Mars Rover Curiosity's landing on the Red Planet: the Mars Rover Art Car. Named 'Dustiny', it landed at Black Rock City during Burning Man 2013. It was permitted in the inner circle on burn night to officially broadcast the burn over the internet for the Burning Man Organization, much like a real space probe would report back from another world. The Wizards made it possible to view the burn from anywhere on the globe, transmitting our signal to our family who couldn't make the trip with us, saluting all those at mission control that couldn't make it. We made a ton of grilled cheese sandwiches, too.
The Mars Rover project was successfully funded on Kickstarter in April 2013 and was chosen as a Kickstarter Editor's Choice. We were stoked! It was covered by CNET, Laughing Squid and more. We're asking our community to put their faith in us again in 2014.
We’re going to build our giant telescope from the ground up just for the citizens of Black Rock City. Dust!? We got this covered. Our telescope will resolve the Galilean Moons of Jupiter, the Rings of Saturn and 5 of its moons, Martian polar ice caps and the outer planets. We'll be exploring faint galaxies many thousands of times too dim to view with the naked eye and distant nebula where stars are being born from coalescing hydrogen gas. Our telescope is a design created by Isaac Newton 346 years ago in 1668. His telescope was 6 inches wide and 2 inches in diameter (not bad Newton). Ours will stand 9 feet tall and 20 inches in diameter; it will provide views that will expand minds, widen perspectives and open consciousness. Viewers will take home memories of distant vistas reserved only for a select few.
Photons are particles of light. They travel at 186,000 miles per second. Right now, there are beams of light, with photons that left a galaxy millions of years ago, rushing toward Burning Man at light speed just to meet you there. Particles of light with your name on them have traveled unfathomable distances at the fastest of all speeds over epochs and over eons of time through the vacuum of space to just to meet YOU at Burning Man. Holy. Crap. Are you going to be there?
For the geeks: our telescope is a 20" f4.5 Newtonian telescope on a Dobsonian mount. If everything goes well, it will track targets and have GOTO capability. We'll also be bringing a menagerie of smaller scopes and we invite our fellow astronomer and star gazing types to set up their gear, too if they'd like. Monday after gate is a New Moon, which will allow for great viewing conditions of deep sky objects. We'll have Mercury low after Sunset, Saturn and Mars set at about 10:30pm PST, Neptune and Triton are at opposition on the 29th (perfect viewing) and yes, I know you were wondering, we will indeed be able to spot Uranus (or your friend's if they're not careful). We will also show you nebulae, globular clusters, planetary nebula and far away galaxies.
We also have an extensive daytime program in store for participants including white light and h-alpha solar telescopes, pinhole viewers and a radio telescope.
Citizens will notice lasers from deep playa pointing out at the stars, then drawing the constellations. Upon further examination, they'll see a group of interlopers resting around an astronomer indicating constellations and asterisms with high powered lasers. Tales of mythology, comedy and astronomy ring out over the playa. Every sort of speaker from Physicist to Philosopher will wonder aloud about the mysteries of the void and pontificate on the beauty of the cosmos. It's a planetarium show without the ceiling.
Our planetarium will be a place where travelers can rest their weary feet and dazzle the brain. An outpost for the curious and intrepid, we want to give the sky back to those who have forgotten it belongs to them. We want to give them views of the night sky they can explore again after Exodus by simply looking up and connecting.
As we are Black Rock Observatory, it's only fitting that we have a black rock on display. Nickel-iron meteorites will be displayed for participants of our great city so that they may touch and hold the oldest thing they've ever clutched and bask in the age of the Solar System. Citizens will feel the weight of 4.5 billion years in their hands. These black rocks hold the keys to the chemistry of the early solar system and they may be the end of our future, too. They might just kill us if we don't pay closer attention. These octahedrites formed with the Solar System 4.3 billion years ago but are just now finally getting tickets to Burning Man.
Visitors to Black Rock Observatory will touch and fondle meteorites. Why? Because, they're metal space crystals of doom forged in the outer solar system and they are awesome. A meteorite hovered just out of reach in the center of Black Rock City last year; this year, you can get all creepy with it.
We need your help!
We have a great design, an amazing crew of veteran burners, more space geeks than we can handle and the track record to make this happen. The only element remaining is the funding. We need money. We need your money, even if it's only a buck. We can make this happen, we just need your help to do it. No bucks: no Buck Rogers.
Please share this with your friends and donate at a level that you're comfortable with. If we are even one dollar short of our goal when the time is up, we get nothing. We have a really amazing opportunity to bring astronomy to the playa in a new, artistic and fun way and you can make it happen right now.
- Our original goal will enable us to show participants the wonders of the universe and the depths of the cosmos, but with your help, we can do so much more! If we can reach $23,500, we can add an amazing solar telescope to double our effectiveness, expand our daytime program and offer views of the Sun in spectacular H-alpha light that will FREAKING BLOW YOUR MIND.
- $25,000 we'll add, a radio telescope to view radio targets through clouds and dust, making our observatory WEATHERPROOF! , plus we can add a dedicated white light solar projector for viewing sunspots!
- $30,000 If we can raise this, we'll be able to outfit our telescope with state of the art closed-loop digital encoders and motors that will allow our giant telescope to locate and track over 10,000 objects automatically providing more views in less time. We have plans for building out the open sky planetarium with chairs and lasers if everything goes well, so come along on this journey with us, the sky is the limit! )'(
- $40,000 We have a great observatory planned where you can explore and experiment, but if we can get to $40,000, we can fully realize the project as we originally envisioned it. At this level of funding we can create a new kind of public observatory that could touch the mind and soul like the great science centers of the world, but ours will be mobile! We'd be able to obtain a trailer for transportation and storage to lower the cost of travel and mitigate the cost of renting transport to maximize your investment. The cheaper our operating costs, the more schools, festivals and events we can reach with this project.
We have the opportunity to bring space to the community in a way that has never been seen before. Join us on our adventure!
We've created some unique rewards for backers of all levels. Please donate at level that you're comfortable with and pat yourself on the back for being a patron of the arts and a citizen of Black Rock City.
Spacey songstress, Kim Boekbinder, will give you a download code for her new astro-themed album at this level. The Sky is Calling journeys deep into the universe with dancey supernova beats and haunting orbital harmonics. See link to the music video of the single, and check out Kim's website for more samples. Video single: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCJzUiBZItk
Risks and challenges
Setting up an observatory in a remote and dusty environment is no easy endeavor, but with the quick setup of Gregg Fleishman's architecture, our team's experience in science outreach and the support of our community, we will be able to bring to the Black Rock Desert an experience that won't easily be forgotten.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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