The Photonics Center has a variety of art displays throughout the building to highlight the science and engineering of light. One prominent display includes the Athanor Art “Sun Drawing” Sculpture on the 7th floor atrium, designed by artist Janet Saad Cook. Artist Janet Saad Cook was recently featured in a Ted Talk discussing how she paints with light.
A time lapse video from a sunny day shows the light beaming into the 7th floor atrium and reflecting off of the art sculpture and displaying the image patterns on the atrium wall. As sunlight moves across its mirrored metals and optically coated glass, different images are created as the light breaks into its component colors.
The sculpture is meant to be placed in direct sunlight to reflect the changing aspects of the sun during the day. Since the sun drawing is never in direct sunlight, a heliostat is used to bring a beam of sunlight into the atrium to a second set of mirrors that redirects the sunlight onto the sun drawing. The heliostat, developed by Boston University Astronomy Professor Ken James, tracks the sun in its daily path across the sky. The heliostat design and operation are explained here.