Ptolemy’s Cluster by Anthony Hearsey, 2021

Audio descriptions: Artworks in the exhibition Thinking into Being: QUT Alumni Triennial.

Ptolemy’s Cluster by Anthony Hearsey, 2021

Anthony HEARSEY Ptolemy’s Cluster 2021, digital photograph. Courtesy of the artist.

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Ptolemy’s Cluster by Anthony Hearsey, 2021.

This photograph is taken by Anthony Hearsey, a Brisbane-based image maker who works on national and international advertising campaigns. His interest in science and nature fuels his self-directed projects, which include photographs of astronomical objects and events, a practice known as astrophotography.

This astrophotograph is printed and mounted on an unframed wooden board that is 70 centimetres by 70 centimetres. The gallery walls are painted an almost black colour, so the space is reasonably dark.

This photograph depicts millions of stars that are speckled across the image like grains of sand. The stars emit an even glow of golden light across the whole image, making the photograph stand out against the dark wall.

In the centre of the image, there is a cluster of ten to twenty stars that shine bigger and brighter than the rest. The cluster has a diameter of about 15 centimetres. There are about twenty other stars scattered around the image that also shine brightly, but the cluster in the middle is the most distinctive part of the photograph.

The artwork depicts Ptolemy’s Cluster, an open cluster of stars in the constellation of Scorpius, which is about 980 light years from Earth and around 200 million years old. This cluster of stars is named after Greek-Roman astronomer Ptolemy, who first recorded it in the year 130 AD.

In order to capture these images, Hearsey uses both astronomy and everyday cameras, and targets his subject for several hours at a time at night in a remote location. From this he generates 50 to 60 faint images, which require further hours of intricate post-production.

There is a TV screen on the adjacent wall that shows video footage documenting the artist taking the photographs and later editing them with photo editing software.