Second Moon set to orbit the Earth

by Cass Art

It could be the easiest wager you will ever win off an astronomer. 

However, if you bet Brian Cox that the next new moon after September 5 isn't October 4 but this Sunday (September 8), then you'd be technically correct and considerably richer.

It's not only a new moon, but a second one too - and set in a man-made orbit by a science-inspired Scottish artist.


Well, only last year the Guardian claimed that Katie Paterson must baffle some collaborators with her deadpan redeployment of their work.

Many critics prefer to substitute the word “baffling” with “intriguing”.

The concept of her latest project, Second Moon, is simple.

The new moon in question is a small shard of the moon that once fell to Earth.

Carefully packaged up, it will be collected by courier UPS from Newcastle's Great North Museum and transported anti-clockwise across the planet.

The Moon

It will orbit the Earth 30 times in a year at around twice the speed of our moon, trailing across countries such as China, Australia and the US.

Second Moon is being launched as part of the British Science Festival.

Paterson describes the project as one that “connects the galactic to the mundane”.

Something that has been part of the 29-year orbit to Saturn and the shifting planets finely held together by gravity, she says, will now be linked to customs delays and airport regulations.

Paterson says she is creating a temporary, human-made moon which is both real and imaginary and prompting us to consider our standing in the universe.

She said: “Our planet is one of billions of others; the universe may be swimming with moons. There are 166 natural satellites in our solar system, Phobos, Deimos, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Kiviuq … now we can look up to the sky and imagine one more, NWA 6721, Lunar Brecchia, Earth’s Second Moon.”

Paterson's work constantly references intangible, natural phenomena, such as the moon. 

She fuses sophisticated and totally mundane technologies to allow people to engage with the natural environment, collapsing the distance between us and the most distant edges of time and the cosmos.

Paterson achieves this by diligently utilising the brains of astronomers, electrical engineers, observatories and academic departments.

Second Moon is visualised through a free app that traces the lunar meteorite in relation to the user’s location, the moon’s position and the orbits of the other planets in our solar system. 

Second Moon will be displayed on mobile tablet devices and projections in public places throughout the world, including Newcastle’s Great North Museum Planetarium, to enable observers to monitor its progress.

Paterson's previous pieces include broadcasting the sounds of a melting glacier live to visitors on mobile phones in an art gallery, transmitting Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata to the moon, and mapping all the dead stars known to humanity.

Her work is described as understated in gesture, yet monumental in scope.

Brian Dillon, art critic and editor of Cabinet Magazine, said: “Second Moon turns the circulation of heavenly bodies into mundane, everyday logistics or transport. Once again in Paterson’s work, the movement of metaphor is also a movement of return: physical or astrophysical fact becomes wondrously estranged but is brought succinctly down to earth. The work is ambitiously metaphorical and at the same time oddly literal.”

Second Moon is part of Katie Paterson: In Another Time, co-produced by the Mead Gallery with La Casa Encendida, Madrid and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Lead image © courtesy of Katie Paterson, photo of packaged moon piece © MJC, courtesy of Katie Paterson.

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