Celestial cartography


Title page of the Coelum Stellatum Christianum by Julius Schiller.
This print, published in Richard Blome's "The Gentleman's Recreation" (1686) shows the diverse ways in which cosmography can be applied

Celestial cartography,[1] uranography,[2][3] astrography or star cartography[citation needed] is the aspect of astronomy and branch of cartography concerned with mapping stars, galaxies, and other astronomical objects on the celestial sphere. Measuring the position and light of charted objects requires a variety of instruments and techniques. These techniques have developed from angle measurements with quadrants and the unaided eye, through sextants combined with lenses for light magnification, up to current methods which include computer-automated space telescopes. Uranographers have historically produced planetary position tables, star tables, and star maps for use by both amateur and professional astronomers. More recently, computerized star maps have been compiled, and automated positioning of telescopes uses databases of stars and of other astronomical objects.


The word "uranography" derived from the Greek "ουρανογραφια" (Koine Greek ουρανος "sky, heaven" + γραφειν "to write") through the Latin "uranographia". In Renaissance times, Uranographia was used as the book title of various celestial atlases.[4][5][6] During the 19th century, "uranography" was defined as the "description of the heavens". Elijah H. Burritt re-defined it as the "geography of the heavens".[7] The German word for uranography is "Uranographie", the French is "uranographie" and the Italian is "uranografia".


Star catalogues

Hyg-aqr.png Bay-aqr.png Aqr-kstars.png
Aquarius according to
Aquarius according to
Johann Bayer's Uranometria,
based on Rudolphine Tables
Aquarius according to

A determining fact source for drawing star charts is naturally a star table. This is apparent when comparing the imaginative "star maps" of Poeticon Astronomicon – illustrations beside a narrative text from the antiquity – to the star maps of Johann Bayer, based on precise star-position measurements from the Rudolphine Tables by Tycho Brahe.

Important historical star tables

Star atlases




  • 1914 Franklin-Adams Charts, by John Franklin-Adams, a very early photographic atlas.
  • The Falkau Atlas (Hans Vehrenberg). Stars to magnitude 13.
  • Atlas Stellarum (Hans Vehrenberg). Stars to magnitude 14.
  • True Visual Magnitude Photographic Star Atlas (Christos Papadopoulos). Stars to magnitude 13.5.
  • The Cambridge Photographic Star Atlas, Axel Mellinger and Ronald Stoyan, 2011. Stars to magnitude 14, natural color, 1°/cm.


  • Bright Star AtlasWil Tirion (stars to magnitude 6.5)
  • Cambridge Star AtlasWil Tirion (Stars to magnitude 6.5)
  • Norton's Star Atlas and Reference Handbook – Ed. Ian Ridpath (stars to magnitude 6.5)
  • Stars & Planets GuideIan Ridpath and Wil Tirion (stars to magnitude 6.0)[9]
  • Cambridge Double Star Atlas – James Mullaney and Wil Tirion (stars to magnitude 7.5)
  • Cambridge Atlas of Herschel Objects – James Mullaney and Wil Tirion (stars to magnitude 7.5)
  • Pocket Sky Atlas – Roger Sinnott (stars to magnitude 7.5)
  • Deep Sky Reiseatlas – Michael Feiler, Philip Noack (Telrad Finder Charts – stars to magnitude 7.5)
  • Atlas Coeli Skalnate Pleso (Atlas of the Heavens) 1950.0 – Antonín Bečvář (stars to magnitude 7.75 and about 12,000 clusters, galaxies and nebulae)
  • SkyAtlas 2000.0, second edition – Wil Tirion & Roger Sinnott (stars to magnitude 8.5)
  • 1987, Uranometria 2000.0 Deep Sky AtlasWil Tirion, Barry Rappaport, Will Remaklus (stars to magnitude 9.7; 11.5 in selected close-ups)
  • Herald-Bobroff AstroAtlas – David Herald & Peter Bobroff (stars to magnitude 9 in main charts, 14 in selected sections)
  • Millennium Star Atlas – Roger Sinnott, Michael Perryman (stars to magnitude 11)
  • Field Guide to the Stars and PlanetsJay M. Pasachoff, Wil Tirion charts (stars to magnitude 7.5)
  • SkyGX (still in preparation) – Christopher Watson (stars to magnitude 12)
  • The Great Atlas of the Sky – Piotr Brych (2,400,000 stars to magnitude 12, galaxies to magnitude 18).[10]


Free and printable from files

  • The TriAtlas Project
  • Toshimi Taki Star Atlases
  • DeepSky Hunter Star Atlas
  • Andrew Johnson mag 7

See also


  1. ^ Warner, D. J. (1979). The Sky Explored: Celestial Cartography 1500–1800. Amsterdam and New York: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum Ltd. and Alan R. Liss, Inc.
  2. ^ Lovi, G.; W. Tirion; B. Rappaport (1987). "Uranography Yesterday and Today". Uranometria 2000.0. 1: The Northern Hemisphere to – 6 degree. Willmann-Bell, Richmond.
  3. ^ Lovi, G.; Tirion, W. (1989). Men, Monsters and the Modern Universe. Richmond: Willmann-Bell.
  4. ^ 1690: Hevelius J., Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia.
  5. ^ c. 1750: Bevis J., Uranographia Britannica.
  6. ^ 1801: Bode. J. E., Uranographia sive Astrorum Descriptio.
  7. ^ Burritt, E. H., The Geography of the Heavens, 1833.
  8. ^ "Dürer's hemispheres of 1515 — the first European printed star charts". Ianridpath.com. Retrieved 2019-02-25.
  9. ^ "Stars & Planets Guide"
  10. ^ "The Great Atlas of the Sky" Archived 2012-01-23 at the Wayback Machine, GreatSkyAtlas.com, December 1, 2009.
  11. ^ "Stellarmap.com". Stellarmap.com. Retrieved 2019-02-25.

External links

  • Star Maps from Ian Ridpath's Star Tales website.
  • The Mag-7 Star Atlas Project
  • Historical Celestial Atlases on the Web
  • Felice Stoppa's ATLAS COELESTIS, an extensive collection of 51 star maps and other astronomy related books stored as a multitude of images.
  • Monthly star maps for every location on Earth
  • Easy to use monthly star maps for northern and southern hemispheres. Helpful target lists for naked eye, binocular, or telescope viewing.
  • Collection of rare star atlases, charts, and maps Archived 2018-03-25 at the Wayback Machine available in full digital facsimile at Linda Hall Library.
  • Navigable online map of the stars, Stellarmap.com.
  • The Digital Collections of the Linda Hall Library include:
    • "Astronomy: Star Atlases, Charts, and Maps", a collection of more than 60 star atlas volumes.
    • "Astronomy: Selected Images, a collection of high-resolution star map images.
    • "History of Cosmology: Views of the Stars", high-resolution scans of prints relating to the study of the structure of the cosmos.