The icon for The Sky Tonight derives from the rhetorically-durable illustration by Camille Flammarion and suggests the wonder of the human quest to explore the heavens. The figure pierces through the crystalline sphere of fixed stars to discover what lies beyond:
The ancients believed that, when they gazed into the heavens, they were peering through many layers of swiftly turning spheres:
In the same way, today we gaze at the night sky filtered through many layers of cultural heritage and representation. The stars have a living history which shapes how we experience the sky tonight.
This site will excavate the cultural layers of the night sky by collating images of the constellations as they have appeared over time and around the world. A cultural archaeology of the night sky seeks to unearth how the interpretation of any constellation has changed over time. It is inseparable from a cultural geography of the night sky that seeks to trace how the interpretation of a star pattern has varied around the world. Toward these ends, high quality images of the constellations from the star atlases of Bayer, Hevelius, Flamsteed, Bode and various other historical sources, as collated and interpreted on this site, will help anyone begin to explore these questions.
This site will become an "open notebook" incorporating contributions of registered users and linking out to other websites, data sets and digital projects relevant to these themes.
All historic constellation images are provided courtesy the History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries. They are placed by OU Libraries in the public domain, and prepared for distribution as part of Lynx Open Ed, the educational outreach of the OU Academy of the Lynx (lynx-open-ed.org). Astrophotos and other images are in the public domain or distributed under a Creative Commons license (look for an attribution wherever they are used).
Kerry Magruder and Brent Purkaple, "The Sky Tonight: Cultural Archaeology of the Stars" (skytonight.org).