Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Astronomical Inaccuracy

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I was in London yesterday on some work, and I saw this poster on a tube station wall.

I was idly scrutinising the night sky in the poster, trying to see if I could recognise any constellations, when I noticed a curious thing. Not only is the depiction of the sky inaccurate (which alone would be bad enough, this being an advert for an observatory of all things!), it actually repeats horizontally.

You can see this clearly in the image below, where I have circled three of the asterisms* for easy identification (you have to make some allowances for the distortion caused by the camera lens and the curvature of the wall).

I think this is rather lazy design; contrast it with Randall Munroe's obsessive attention to astronomical detail.

Happy equinox, everyone!

*An asterism is a pattern of stars smaller than a constellation, like the Big Dipper which is part of the constellation Ursa Major. It is also the name for one of my favourite typographical symbols: . You may have known these facts already; I basically inserted the footnote because the temptation to put an asterisk next to asterisms was irresistible.