“For Millennia the sky has presented two faces to humanity: constants and variables, the regular motions of the heavenly bodies and the unpredictable events of the atmosphere. Correspondingly, the sky has yielded two great but very different sciences, astronomy and meteorology. One is the oldest of all sciences, and the other is quite recent, at least as a predictive science. One is the epitome of an exact science, and the other of a probabilistic one. The regular cycles of the heavenly bodies and the whimsical happenings of the atmosphere have long presented two models for the behaviour of heavenly beings.”
The field is many things. When understood within the frame of sight, the field of view is the extent of the observable world that is seen at any given moment. It is the area of the inspection captured on the camera’s imager. In astronomy, the field of view is usually expressed as an angular area viewed by the instrument. And so the field of view is sight, resolution and measurement all at once.
The field is also place or group of physical sites in which evidence of past activity is preserved. As a mode or methodology, the ‘field’, is a space for investigation that allows you to explore something unfamiliar, rather than a moment of necessarily acquiring knowledge.
This essay explores the sky through both these prisms. Bringing together my interest in contemporary observational sciences and early scientific observational instruments, the sky appears as a physical field but also as a field of collection and a form of collective perception.
Horace Bénédict de Saussure, Cyanometer for measuring the blueness of the sky. Courtesy of © Musée d’histoire des sciences de Genève.
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