SCIENCE

Beautiful night-sky maps for any aspiring astronomer


Travel to the stars without ever leaving the ground.

Travel to the stars without ever leaving the ground. (Martin Sattler via Unsplash/)

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel gets a lot of buzz, but we often forget about the Earth’s “ceiling”: the stars. Being able to navigate the night sky, however, is all about understanding the transient nature of celestial bodies. They move. We move. So, how can we capture this complex relationship in a map?

A sky map is an invaluable aid based on cultural knowledge and cardinal directions, and is essential in identifying what makes up the night sky at a given time and place. While a telescope is not a requirement, trust us—as you begin to comprehend the enormity of what’s out there, you’re going to want one.

A beautiful astronomical instrument.

A beautiful astronomical instrument. (Amazon/)

This planisphere is a simple analog tool that computes what stars are visible at any time using rotating disks. If you’re located between 30 and 60 degrees north on the latitudinal scale—Canada, the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Northern China—this guide will show you how to find numerous stars, galaxies, and constellations. At 16 inches in diameter with a generous font size, you’ll want this for everything from casual backyard gazing to more close-up discoveries with binoculars or a small telescope.

This more traditional stellar choice.

This more traditional stellar choice. (Amazon/)

Monthly sky maps take the place of a planisphere in this atlas, which covers both the northern and southern hemisphere. In addition to stars, clusters, and galaxies, you’ll find moon maps in Cambridge’s 95-page volume. The spiral-bound version is packable and hardy for repeated use.

Bring the stars indoors to you.

Bring the stars indoors to you. (Amazon/)

Anyone can stick stars on their ceiling and call it a night. But this kit takes decorating a child’s bedroom (or yours) to a more scientific, level. It will take an hour or two to place these glow-in-the-dark stars into 31 constellations on your ceiling, using the enclosed stencil to approximate their distance in space. But you’ll be more than rewarded when your child looks up at the evening sky and says, “There’s a Big Dipper everywhere I go.”

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