the night sky
A data-driven visual experiment.
It takes the light just 8 min 19 s to go from the Sun to your eyes! So it makes sense that we measure the vast distances of stars and other celestial bodies in light years.
What do you think, how many kms can light travel in one year? How much is "a light year"? Let me tell you:
I think it is amazing to think about: The light from the stars traveled for years and years until it reaches us. That means, for many stars the light you see now started traveling towards you when you were not even born!
So this project is about a simple idea: What if each star could tell you what was happening on Earth when its light started racing towards your eye balls.
Below, you'll find a map of the night sky that you can interact with. You can hover each star1 to see how far away it is and what happened on Earth during the time when the light started traveling towards you. For more precise star selection, use the controls below the map to zoom in and move around. It's easy to get lost in there, so if you want to go back to the initial overview just hit the "Reset" button. All events were taken from Wikipedia timelines and matched2 to the respective amount of light years.
The brighter stars are represented by larger circles. Those are the ones that are best visible to the naked eye. That's also why they have proper names like Polaris, Vega, or Sirius.
Which star tells the most interesting story to you?
I found fascinating random historical facts while browsing this map of the night sky. For example, the use of compasses (in Europe) goes back all the way to the year 1199 CE. John Wayne died in 1979. The Phoenician alphabet was created already in 1050 BCE. And paper was invented in 200 BCE in the Han dynasty? Wow.
If you enjoyed this too, let me know.
- This map does not contain all stars of the night sky. It's the ~5,000 stars that most people are able to see when they look up in a good night without using professional star gazing equipment. ⤴
- It was not possible to exactly match each and every distinct amount of light years to an historic event. Instead, for each star the distance in light years was mapped to the closest event in the list of options. However, the timeline has more entries the closer it gets to the current day. That means that stars that are close to us (small amount of light years) will be matched closer to an historic event. On the flipside, stars that are very far away will be matched less close to an historic event. ⤴
Data were collected and merged from 3 sources: