Du Mont Mégantic aux exoplanètes

Residency at l'Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic, l’iREx et l’ASTROlab du Mont-Mégantic

I am a landscape photographer, I started to photograph, during long mountain hikes, in Chic-Chocs, in New-Hampshire and in Eastern Townships. I kept repeating the same images in the same places, especially at Mont-Albert in Gaspésie National Park.

During my master’s degree, I began by searching the word nature in the UQAM library database. I then compiled a bibliography based on thousands of results from the writings of Aristotle, Lucrezia, Kepler, Descartes, Rousseau and Hubert Reeves. These texts introduced me to the scientific methods and data collection tools that scientists use to define our world. These readings have inspired my method, which has become systematic, in my work. I first study phenomena to then build a receiver, a sensor, a machine, in short terms something that allows me to create images, sounds or videos. I realized several projects inspired by space, The Sun, The exoplanets, Titan a Moon of Jupiter, The Big-bang …

In order to continue my research, I will be in residence for at least 12 months with three of Quebec’s leading astronomy and astrophysics organizations: the Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic, the iREx and the ASTROlab du Mont-Mégantic.

We are at a particular moment in the history of astronomy, that of the discovery of exoplanets. The iREx and thousands of scientists are collaborating on an even more incredible experiment: finding life outside our solar system.

In order to accomplish this quest, scientists are multiplying the instruments. More and more complex, observatories and satellites collect colossal amounts of information. In the infinitude of the sky, they search for microscopic variations of light revealing the presence of a planet in transit in front of its sun. The results of these experiments are abstract, consisting of extraordinary images of stars and millions of graphs, tables and analyses totally obscure to neophytes (including myself).

While scientists collect photons with their ultra-precise instruments, the starry vault, the one accessible to our gaze, disappears under the lighting of our cities. The experience of the sky and its phenomena with our simple eyes, that which inspired Chinese astronomers, Greek philosophers and Arab mathematicians has nowadays become almost impossible. The Mont-Mégantic starry sky reserve was created to preserve today and for the future, access for all to the starry sky experience. If the original purpose of preserving the darkness of the sky was to pursue astronomical experiments, it has another effect, that of allowing us to see the sky with our eyes, to contemplate the theatre of the world, the one which, not so long ago guided our journeys, inspired our myths and illuminated our nights.

I am taking this residence as a journey. It will oscillate between what we can see and what the instruments reveal to us.

– Jean-Pierre Aubé

The Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic is at the heart of the Mont-Mégantic International Dark Sky Reserve (RICEMM), which covers an area of nearly 5,500 km2. It is a major infrastructure dedicated to basic astrophysical research jointly administered by the Université de Montréal and Université Laval.

The Institute for Exoplanetary Research – iREx – brings together the best researchers and their students to take full advantage of the major observational projects underway or to come, with the ultimate goal of finding life outside our solar system.

The Astrolab du Mont-Mégantic is a scientific museum and an interpretation and scientific popularization centre dedicated to astronomy and astrophysics.