What is a Star Map?

This year we introduced an exciting new product to our range: the personalised star map. And the new addition is already attracting phenomenal interest.

Exactly what is a star map? Well, it’s based on a simple, magical idea – you enter a date, a place and a time into our configurator and watch as we calculate the stars visible at that precise moment.

The idea might be simple – but as you’d expect, the science behind the maps is a bit more complicated!

This article will try to address some of questions we’ve been getting from the public about how our maps work. Questions such as:

Read on to find out more!

What is a star map? Dramatic view of deep space.

So How Do You Calculate My Custom Star Chart?

Each My-Picture.co.uk star chart is created using a sophisticated computer programme which can access and sift through the relevant celestial data.

That relevant data being the galactic coordinates – and the size/brightness – of all the stars which are visible with the naked eye from any given point on earth. In other words, the stars which make up the night sky.

The position of each star is constantly changing, of course, because the earth itself is not static but revolves around the sun. Our system can establish the coordinates (azimuth and elevation) of a star at the exact moment in time you choose. You can choose any time, date and year (within reason!) for your map, either in the past or in the future.

What is a star map? Row of satellite dishes.

Where Does the Raw Data Come From?

We use celestial data cross-referenced from a range of sources to ensure pinpoint accuracy.

One such source is the Hipparcos Catalogue, which collects the information gathered by the scientific satellite of the same name. This project of the European Space Agency broke new ground in precision astronomy, and yielded a rich bounty of data as to the position and motion of celestial objects. The resulting high-precision catalogue included more than 100,000 stars.

And the list of prestigious names doesn’t end there. Several other data collections which we use share the same original source: NASA itself.

Note that when you use our configurator, you can choose to indicate the constellations on your chart as well as display the stars themselves. The 88 constellations we include are those officially defined by the International Astronomical Union.

What is a star map? Map of stars on shelf.

I’m Still Dubious – Can I Really Be Sure This Isn’t a Scam?

We wouldn’t ask you just to take our word for it. If you want to be sure we’re serious about the accuracy of our maps, the easiest thing to do is compare the results you get at our website with other, independent results.

You can do so this evening, by simply looking at the most dependable data source around – the night sky itself! Enter your location, today’s date and the current time into our configurator, then just head outside and look up.

The alignment of stars you see up in the sky will be the same alignment you see on your computer screen. (It’s for you to decide which is prettier).

What is a star map? Beautiful view of galaxy

But…What If It’s Cloudy?

Fair point. There’s light pollution to reckon with too. But no matter, because there are other platforms you can use to verify our results.

Try interactive maps online, such as the one at skymaponline.net or the chart maintained by respected astronomy magazine Sky and Telescope. Simply enter the same details that you entered at our website and compare the outcomes.

You’ll see that their results are exactly consistent with ours. (Although we can’t promise they’ll be presented with the same elegant clarity…).

You can also use open-source astronomy software such as KStars if you want to explore the galaxy in even more detail!​

What is a star map? Star map on chest of drawers.

OK, It Sounds Legit – Where Can I Try This Out?

Simply go to our custom star map page and enter the time and location of a special moment in your life.

Alongside the peace of mind that only rigorous scientific groundwork can provide, you’ll benefit from the following great features:

Find out why our dazzling customised star chart has been lighting up people’s lives!

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