Space Artist Discovers Message Hidden in the Keyhole Nebula

Space artist and amateur astronomer Tim Malles sees images of faces, figures and creatures hidden inside Hubble Space Telescope photographs of the Keyhole and Carina Nebulae.  He has found so many recognizable features that an ongoing art project, The Keyhole Project, has been created around them.  "Its like finding faces in the clouds, only space clouds are much larger and more complex," remarks the artist.  Malles turns his trained eyes to closely examining the images of stars, swirling gas and dust and creates paintings that reveal his unique vision and interpretation of what he sees there.  "It does feel like I'm peering through a keyhole, perhaps finding a hidden message or unlocking a secret.  There seem to be too many recognizable features in one area.  Some are beautiful and others are haunting.  It's heavenly and hellish all at once and an awesome surprise to find faces in random cosmic violence."

From the Constellations to the man in the Moon, the Zodiac to the face on Mars, it has always been man's conceit to place himself among the stars.  The Keyhole Project targets man's lofty and unending attempt to anthropomorphize the heavens.  From straining to see through a narrow opening to unlocking and opening the door wide, the project explores our primitive and psychological need to make a human connection to the abstract and particularly with what we do not understand.  Not only do we instinctively attempt to find a human context there, we search for the highest possible meanings - religious and spiritual themes.  "Like peering into a crystal ball or cosmic reflecting pool, you will always see something of yourself reflected back to you."  The Keyhole Project crosses the intersection of science and religion, inner and outer spaces, and offers the connection through visionary art.

-Trixie O'Sullivan, Guest Blogger

The constellation Pictor, the Painter, is found just below the Carina Nebula in southern skies

The Carina Nebula

Carina Nebula (released 2007)                                        NASA / STScI Hubble
 Discovered by British Royal Astronomer Sir William Herschel in the mid-nineteenth century, the Keyhole Nebula got its name because of its unusual shape.  At a distance of 8,000 light years from Earth, the Carina Nebula, of which the Keyhole Nebula is the center core, covers an immense area of space over 200 light years across.  It is filled with stars ten times hotter and a hundred times more massive than our Sun, glowing filaments of gas and dark, cold molecular clouds and dust.  The most luminous star in our galaxy, Eta Carina, is found there.  In 1843, it exploded and became the second brightest star in our sky, to later dim over time.  It is the light from this star that illuminates the gases around it that create the images I see - and it is the only known source of natural laser radiation in our galaxy, an astronomical mystery.


The Keyhole Project - Voyage of Discovery

Keyhole Nebula (released 2002)                                  NASA / STScI Hubble
  All of what you will see here on this web site was inspired by a very remarkable flash of inspiration that happened to me one day in June 2002.  A calendar on our wall that featured the just released Hubble Space Telescope image of the Keyhole Nebula caught my attention from across the room.  For I saw what unmistakably appeared to me to be three faces.  I made sketches.  I looked closer and studied the photos carefully and discovered even more recognizable faces, figures and creatures.  Over a period of time the project became my obsession and I began to feel like the Richard Dreyfus character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind !  I ordered large prints and downloaded huge image files to help me in my search.  My research uncovered unexplainable astronomical phenomena in this region of space. And then someone turned me on to Stewart Elliot Guthrie's Faces in the Clouds, a most excellent book that dives deeply into man's instinctively primitive nature to anthropomorphize even heaven itself.  All of this has led to the creation of 18 oil paintings that offer a unique vision and a provocative perspective to the viewer.  I will ask the reader and the viewer, Why do we see what we see?  Why do we believe what we believe?  What do you see?  What do you believe?