When science collides with art: These incredible photos aren’t galaxies in the making, they’re science experiments

Fabian Oefner’s work is some of the most stunning proof you’ll ever see that art and science don’t have to be strange bedfellows.

In fact, this Swiss artist’s aim is to show the world that “art and science do not exist on opposite ends of the academic spectrum but rather inform each other in tangible ways.”

While his photographs look like the kind we’d gasp at while thanking NASA for the ongoing marvel that is the Hubble Space Telescope, his subjects are in fact all very much Earth-bound.

Take the above image. A cursory glance would say it’s a distant galaxy – and the title ‘Nebula No. 10’ suggests as much – but the ‘stars’ are in fact the glow of a fibreglass light slowly moved around on a black background, captured by long-exposure photography.

Fabian said of his Nebula series, “the setup is so simple, just a fibre glass lamp and yet, the images are rich and complex to look at, just like the sky when looking at it in a clear night.”

Next there are his static images – although ‘static’ really does no justice to these explosions of colour and light.

His Black Hole series sees paint put on a steel rod attached to a drill, which is then turned on. The result is the illusion of space’s greatest mystery surrounded by a brilliant swirl of colour.

Then, we come to his moments in time photos – photographs taken at the most precise instants. Take his Iridient series, showing the exact moment a bubble pops, yet still capturing the glistening rainbow that is the doomed orb’s surface. Or Vanishing Beauty, where Fabian filled balloons with corn starch and managed to snap the starch holding its form at the moment the balloons burst.

So does the art-and-design-graduate-cum-science-buff seek to inform his audiences about the underlying science behind his breathtaking images?

“I’m not too didactic about my work. If people just want to appreciate it for its beauty, that’s absolutely fine,” he told TED. “And if I present it without an explanation, people tend to come up with their own, which is often even more poetic.”

If all this piques your interest, be sure to get along to the annual Sydney Science Festival, held throughout Sydney between 11−21 August 2016, and featuring eleven days of stimulating talks, workshops, exhibitions, and events – including a range of events where science collides with art. Hear a talk by artist duo Haines and Hinterding or create art with artificial intelligence. A highlight of the festival will be the Sydney Mini Maker Faire, a weekend that showcases the handiwork of Sydney’s most innovative makers.