From the ABC 7 Weather team

'Urban stargazing': Artificial constellations appear over London

June 30, 2011 - 03:39 PM
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Constellation V-2? An artist is decking the London skyscape with fake constellations that pay tribute to the city's storied history.

Upset that London's light pollution was obscurrring the stars, designer Oscar Lhermitte has thrown up 12 fake constellations that riff on the city's legendary and bizarre history.

Visitors to London this summer might notice that there are a few too many stars in the sky. That's due to the guerrilla efforts of French product designer Oscar Lhermitte, whose "Urban Stargazing" team is erecting artificial constellations around the city that have special meanings for Londoners.

Count Lhermitte as an opponent of urban light pollution. In one of his earlier pieces, he conjured up a fake Big Dipper because, he said, living in "big cities such as London has many advantages, but it is unfortunately difficult to see a clear sky. As you know, the city lights, the English weather and the pollution hide the contemplation of this poetic open space."

So using nylon twine, solar-powered LEDs and a "telescopic catapult" to reach the tiptops of trees and other tall structures, Lhermitte's crew has added 12 new constellations to the city sky that, like their real brethren, are only visible at night. These aren't your typical Latinate crabs, seagoats and old men wrestling snakes, but distinctly British creations like the missile-shaped "V-2" constellation – named for the rockets that Germany used to pound England in WWII – and the "Mosquito," inspired by a horrifying subterranean insect that has evolved to survive in the dank atmosphere of the London Tube.

The stargazing team has situated these structures in areas that have special historical significance. The V-2 piece, for instance, is located above the Bethnal Green Tube station, where 173 Londoners seeking shelter from an incoming bombing run in 1943 died of suffocation or crushing. (It turned out to be a false alert caused by a new and loud type of domestic weapon that panicked the crowd.) For more on the significance of the constellations, the blog We Make Money Not Art has a good rundown.

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