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  • Carlotta Roda

Metamorphosis of the Universe

WRITTEN BY CARLOTTA RODA


I am an astronomy, landscape and nocturnal cityscape photographer. My photographs celebrate the wonder that the night hours can offer, creating fascination in the viewer in discovering how much light there is in the darkness. Through my work I explore darkness, always seeking to discover more, going beyond what can be seen, pushing the boundaries of mystery and the dark.

With a sensitive and reflective gaze, my desire is to place man before himself to ask himself questions about his own existence. Focusing on both the intimate and the grand, my goal is to evoke a sense of awe and reflection in viewers. My photographs seek to provide an escape, helping people recapture their dreamscapes and providing a unique and powerful perspective on the everyday. I explore our relationship with the universe, mysterious forces and even the fear of darkness itself: Nyctophobia.


Starting from 2021 I started dedicating myself to astrophotography, a photographic genre that allows you to photograph the celestial bodies of the Universe: nebulae, galaxies, comets, globular clusters, planets, etc. The approach towards this world was born precisely because I began to question myself about the concept of time linked to man.

Everything we see that is astral is, in reality, what existed thousands, millions or billions of years ago. The light of objects that reaches us today is a light that does not reflect the present. The Universe is the most powerful time machine that can exist. We are seeing the past and our present will be visible in the future.


I wanted to call this project that I have been carrying out for four years "Metamorphosis of the Universe", because the Universe is constantly evolving and changing, what exists today will not exist tomorrow and what will exist tomorrow does not exist today. 


Due to the initial "push" received from the Big Bang, the universe is expanding; it, however, is also subject to the force of gravity, which causes its deceleration, the value of which depends both on the quantity of matter present in the universe and on the impulse received from the large initial explosion. We do not notice the expansion both because the speeds, on human scales, are small, and because the gravitational and electrical forces counteract and overwhelm the expansion. The photographs mainly have nebulae and galaxies as their subject, the two celestial bodies that I prefer to photograph during the course of the night. 



One of the photographs I am most attached to is the photograph of Andromeda (also cataloged with the acronym M31), which is the galaxy closest to our Milky Way. Astronomical studies say that in about 5 billion years the Milky Way and Andromeda and if the collision takes place, the two galaxies will merge with each other. This photograph won the “APOD” (Astronomical Picture of the Day) award on the apod.astronomia.com website on February 18th, 2024. Winning this competition was a great personal achievement and motivates me to continue realizing my dream, far away become astrophotography my job. 



Two other photographs that I care a lot about are the photographs that one represent the Crescent Nebula (catalogued as NGC6888) and the second in which the Bode Galaxy and the Cigar Galaxy are represented (catalogued as M81 and M82). These two images are exhibited in Lodi (Italy) in the “Cosmologie” exhibition from March 2nd, 2024 to April 27th, 2024. It is my first artistic exhibition, not a contest one, and for this reason I am very fond of these two images, they are my first business card in the world of art collecting. 

 

 


 

In order to take these photographs I use precision instruments, which allow me to track the motion of a object in the sky. More precisely, it is a telescope placed on top of an equatorial mount, the mechanism that allows the tracking of the subject to be photographed at night.


The equatorial mount is aligned with the polar star, because it is the only star aligned with the earth's rotation axis, therefore it always remains fixed in the same point of the sky every night. Once the mount is aligned, it is able to move while keeping the subject perfectly framed to be able to take photographs. Combined with these there is a particular camera, with a CMOS sensor, made especially for astronomy. This sensor, being backlit, has greater sensitivity to light and objects are more visible in photographs than a classic camera sensor. CMOS also shoots at -10° Celsius, because in this way the noise is significantly reduced in the image.

Filters are also always used, which allow us to eliminate the artificial light from street lamps and nearby houses and also allow us to emphasize the main gases present in the cosmos: hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur. Light pollution is a crucial point for astrophotography, which if present does not allow a beautiful view of the sky, but if it is absent it gives astral visions.

 

Deep sky astrophotography has shutter speeds that are very different from those of "traditional" photography. While a simple photograph is taken in 1 second, 1/2 second, 1/100 second (etc), in astronomy the times are much longer. A photograph lasts several hours, this is because the objects to be photographed are very faint and therefore their brightness is very low. Consequently, it is necessary to integrate hours and hours of signal to be able to best bring out, for example, the nebula or the galaxy. For this reason, the photographs I take are the sum of approximately 10, 20 or 30 hours, depending on how faint the subject I want to photograph is. 


Astrophotography, therefore, represents for me a starting point for an internal reflection that I want to share with the rest of the world. Nowadays man is increasingly in a hurry and has more and more work to do due to the society in which he finds himself and never finds the time to stop for a second and admire his daily life. Lying on a deckchair in the garden and observing the sky at night is always a magical moment for me, it helps me regenerate, find the strength to carry on and also allows me to detach my head from reality. This is an advice I would like to give to everyone: observing the sky is like observing ourselves. We must imagine the sky as if it were a mirror, which allows us to look at ourselves from outside, but above all from inside.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Carlotta Roda was born in Erba (Como) in 1999. She got a photography degree at IED, Istituto Europeo di Desing in Milan, in 2021. Photography allows her to find meaning which goes beyond  the obviousness and she uses it in order to evoke imaginary meaning detached from the “real” world. This leads to an incessant search. She wants the man to come to terms with himself and ask existenatial questions. Simultaneously she takes astronomy photos and urban night pictures to make a comparison between the universe and our daily life, respectively macrocosm and microcosm.  


 

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