SHOOTING STARS, Creative data visualization of the last 30 years of shooting stars above London

by Gabriella Solti

Gabriella Solti, Shooting Stars, light performance, Market Street Alley, London, Ontario, September 17, 2016

Shooting Stars is a light performance Gabriella Solti produced for the Market Street Alley’s light canopy with technical assistance from the talented Liam Wallner, a student of Fanshawe College’s Theatre Arts – Technical Production program. It is a creative data visualization condensing the 12 most prominent meteor showers over the last 30 years. The data is taken from the meteor shower calendar of the American Meteor Society, and historical data from scientific publications. 

 Each meteor shower is represented with a different coloured light while the night sky is formed by dark blue LEDs. While we can’t produce a velocity of 44 miles/sec (Leonids), or 41 miles/sec (Orionids) on the light canopy, the speed of the meteors in relation to each other is scientifically accurate, as is their Zenithal Hourly Rate (the number of meteors a single observer would see in an hour of peak activity). The light performance also takes into consideration the phenomenological characteristics of the meteor showers, persistent trains, bright fireballs, faint (Delta Aquariids), or bright, intensely coloured (Geminids) meteors. 

Thirty years (1987-2016) are condensed into 90 minutes thus one year equals 3 minutes, one month 15 seconds. Meteor showers do not fill the sky consistently every month, so while some months are bursting with activity, the canopy sometimes goes quiet. Just like real stargazing, a moment filled with anticipation can suddenly erupt with a plethora of vibrant fireballs.

The video is only a less than 3 minutes recording of the light show and was taken late in the night when the “stargazing” crowd already dispersed. 

(Note: At 00:18 you can see a passerby throwing up in the air his “firefly”, a hand-made, soft light ball with a flashing, multicolour LED light in its centre. Earlier in the day, starting at 6 pm the public made hundreds of “fireflies” at drop-in workshops at the artist’s table on the street. See earlier post.)