Art, Monday Gallery — July 6, 2015, 2:25 pm

Tree, South of France

©KateBreakey

“Tree, South of France,” photograph printed on glass with gold leaf, from the series Au, by Kate Breakey. The series was inspired by a theory according to which gold (Au) was produced by the collision of neutron stars. As Breakey describes the theory:

The events that produce most of the gold in the universe are called gamma-ray bursts. These occur when two neutron stars, the cores of dead stars, collide under the force of gravity. Neutron stars are as dense as atomic nuclei: though they are only a few miles in diameter they have more mass than the Sun. A pair of dead, dark neutron stars will spin around each other for millions of years at millions of miles per hour, slowly but constantly pulling each other closer. In the moment that they finally touch, they release more gamma-ray energy than exists in the rest of the universe. Much of their mass collapses into a black hole, but the remainder produces an enormous explosion of gamma rays and newly formed elements, including gold. Some of that stardust joined with other elements to form Earth’s core; other quantities were deposited in the Earth’s crust by asteroids that arrived 3.8 billion years ago, during the so-called Late Heavy Bombardment. The Ancient Egyptians believed that gold was the flesh of their Sun god, Ra.

Breakey’s work will be on view at photo-eye Gallery, Santa Fe, on July 11, and can be seen in the September 2014 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

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More from Kate Breakey:

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