Spiral Galaxy is located just south of Adler Planetarium on Northerly Island. Created by John David Mooney, the sculpture was commissioned by the Vatican Observatory in 1994 in honor of "The Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena" conference. The fourteen-foot-tall stainless steel artwork was inspired by research on Galileo’s drawings and early photographic images of some of our closest galaxies. In 1998, the artwork was installed in an outdoor exhibit at Navy Pier. A few years later, the artist temporarily displayed the Spiral Galaxy along the bayfront of Sarasota, Florida, in an exhibition sponsored by the Sarasota Season for Sculpture.
In 2005, in celebration of the Adler Planetarium’s seventy-fifth anniversary, the sculpture was installed on the lawn area just southwest of the astronomy museum. It is sited so that its shadow marks the summer and winter solstices on the northern ground plane, and the equinoxes on the east and west.
John David Mooney has created large-scale, site-specific works for many public and private clients. His work includes a 133-foot-long rooftop light sculpture in Los Angeles; an aluminum and Waterford crystal work hanging in the atrium of the John Crerar Library at the University of Chicago; and light sculptures in the Chicago Tribune Tower and at Adler Planetarium. Mooney is the founder and artistic director of the John David Mooney Foundation in Chicago, an organization which provides a postgraduate study program for international artists and architects. In addition, his training program for young international artists focuses on Chicago-based public art projects.