Deep underground, looking outwards.

Deep underground, looking outwards.

Characters in Haruki Murakami’s novels tend to spend a lot of time at the bottom of deep, dark wells or in the depths of forests. After a lot of staring into darkness they usually discover that what they thought was a wall really is in fact a door leading somewhere else. I thought a bit about this the other day when I was at the “Luxembourg” train station here in Paris to see the astronomical images that my friend Mr. Seagull has prepared as part of an underground exhibition which will last six months. (Attentive readers will recognise Mr. Seagull as a regular commentator on this column). Six enormous images have been affixed to the cavernous walls of the Luxembourg metro station, printed out using a special process which can make bright coloured images which can last six months in an environment as hostile as a Parisian metro station where hundreds of thousands of people pass every day.

The images, which are really doors of course, lead further and further out into the Universe, starting out with the rocky Martian landscape seen by the JPL rovers and finishing up with a swathe of the distant Universe as it was seven billion years ago as imaged by the MEGACAM camera on the Canada-France Hawaii Telescope on the island of Hawaii. The image was processed by computers of the TERAPIX project — also underground, in the basement of the IAP. A kilometre or so south of this platform.


Standing next to the images I could see the ancient light dissolve into pixels. I took a few pictures from the other side of the platform. Here is one — but you should go yourself. Or pay careful attention as you pass through the station. Historians of Paris will know that it’s only very recently that one could actually travel through the Luxembourg station. For greater part of the station’s hundred and ten year history it was actually the terminus, the last station on the ligne de Sceaux. That north end of the tunnel was a wall. Now it too leads somewhere else…


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