The Sky at Night

Galileo's World at a Glance | Gallery at the Exhibit Website
What is the artistic and scientific heritage of the sky at night?

When Galileo observed the belt and sword of Orion the Hunter, and the Pleiades star cluster on the back of Taurus the Bull, the background of night gave way before his eyes: His telescope resolved an astonishing number of unexpected stars never seen before. The wonder of the sky at night is common to science and to art. From the Renaissance to the dawn of the modern age, art and science fused together in the representation of the stars and constellations. These star maps combined state-of-the-art scientific observation of the cosmos with appreciation for the aesthetic dimension of the sky at night.

1. Galileo, Sidereus nuncius (Venice, 1610), photograph of starfields.
2. Alessandro Piccolomini, De le Stelle Fisse (Venice, 1540), "On the Fixed Stars"
3. Ptolemy, Opera (Basel, 1541), "Works"
4. Nicolaus Copernicus, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (Basel, 1566), 2d ed., "On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres"
5. Johann Bayer, Uranometria (Ulm, 1661), bound with Johann Bayer, Explicatio characterum (Ulm, 1697), "Measuring the Heavens"
6. Johann Kepler, De stella nova in pede serpentarii (Prague, 1606), "On the New Star in the Foot of the Serpent Handler"
7. Stanislaw Lubieniecki, Theatrum cometicum (Amsterdam, 1666-68), "Theater of Comets"
8. Johann and Elisabeth Hevelius, Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia (Gdansk, 1690), "The Firmament of King Sobiesci, or Map of the Heavens"
9. Johann and Elisabeth Hevelius, Prodromus Astronomiae (Gdansk, 1690), bound with the Uranographia, "Preliminary Discourse for Astronomy"
10. Johann and Elisabeth Hevelius, Catalogus stellarum fixarum (Gdansk, 1687), bound with the Uranographia, "Catalog of Fixed Stars"
11. Vincenzo Coronelli, Celestial Globe Gores (Paris, 1693; reprint ca. 1800 using original plates), "Celestial Globe Gores"
12. Heinrich Scherer, Typus totius orbis terraquei geographice (Munich, 1700), "A Geographical Map of the Terraqueous Globe"
13. John Flamsteed, Atlas coelestis (London, 1729), "Celestial Atlas"
14. Johann Bode, Uranographia (Berlin, 1801), "Map of the Heavens"
15. Joseph J. von Littrow, Atlas des Gestirnten Himmels (Stuttgart, 1839), "Atlas of the Starry Heavens"
16. Catherine Whitwell, An Astronomical Catechism (London, 1818)

Further reading:
  • William B. Ashworth, Jr., Out of This World: The Golden Age of the Celestial Atlas, An Exhibition of Rare Books from the Collection of the Linda Hall Library, with supplement Further Out (printed catalogs; online exhibit)
  • Nick Kanas, Star Maps: History, Artistry and Cartography, 2d ed (Springer, 2012)
  • Chet Raymo, 365 Starry Nights (Simon & Schuster, 1990)
Curators: Kerry Magruder and Brent Purkaple. Links are to the exhibit website, For more information, download the comprehensive, free Exhibit Guide from the iBook Store. Open Educational Resources are available at and ShareOK.

Works listed here are on display in Bizzell Memorial Library (Fall 2015, Summer-Spring 2016) and also at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art (Spring 2016). We thank Mark White, Director of the Fred Jones Museum, Francesca Giani (curator), Melissa Smith (educator) and all the Museum staff for incorporating many books described in “Galileo and the Telescope,” “The Moon and the Telescope,” “Galileo and Perspective Drawing,” and “The Sky at Night,” into their Spring 2016 exhibition, “An Artful Observation of the Cosmos.” Each of these galleries takes its point of departure from Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius (1610), which is listed as the first item for each of these galleries. Museum curator Francesca Giani took these themes to heart and illustrated them with art from the Museum. Her captions for that exhibit, relating the books to the art, were based in varying degrees upon the original captions provided beforehand in the Exhibit Guide and the Exhibit website. The melding of art and science by the Fred Jones Museum in their exhibit is a powerful example of the ability of Galileo’s World to throw light upon the world of OU today.