Mapping Constellations

Astronomers use coordinate systems in the sky to keep track of where celestial objects are; the most common is the Equatorial system. When I teach this, I try to get students to imagine a world globe extended out to the stars. On this globe the constellations look like political boundaries...

Today this got me thinking: what if we laid the 88 constellation boundaries on top of a world map? This is what you get:
It's a cute idea, a bit confusing. Labels are placed at the "center of mass" for each region. Constellations are larger in the north, which I believe is due to historical European bias in defining these regions.


Then I took it a step further and asked: what if we used the constellation boundaries to draw the political lines for our planet?
If the world's political boundaries were drawn using constellations.




Some Highlights
There are obvious problems with some of these lines. Antarctica doesn't need so many countries. Africa, Asia, and Europe now have too few. Some of the suggested boundaries/borders are amusing, some bear striking resemblance to historical or cultural lines. Here are three highlights....



Australia, largely unchanged from the 1840's, and strikingly similar to present day! I thought this was funny.




Europe looks a bit over simplified. The British Islands are still divided. The Roman/Catholic nations largely banded together in Europe, and perhaps the Huns stuck around?


North America has a few extra countries now, but overall the results are very interesting! If these constellation were guides that we could move slightly we could get Seattle, Portland and maybe the Bay Area into one incredibly chill state. This would likely be called Cascadia, or maybe Jefferson. Probably Vancouver and Victoria would want in on that. The east coast British colonies are well contained.
Canada is largely intact, except the eastern corner near Quebec. I think it's safe to assume this combined Quebec - New Brunswick - Nova Scotia country would speak French! Alaska's main populated areas get their own "New Greenland", or something. I suppose ExxonMobil would own the northern chunk of Alaska... we'll call that "Petrolia".

3 comments:

  1. Very cool. How did you create the map, may I ask? Did you do the work of converting constellation boundaries to, say, lat-lon coordinates, and then plotting them on a map? (I want to do the same thing on a sphere and I'm trying to figure out how...)
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The boundaries are published by the IAU http://www.iau.org/public/constellations/

      So yes, I basically drew them on a map projection of the Earth, using the sky coordinates (right ascension, declination) to compare with the Earth coordinates (long,lat)

      Delete

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