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Constellation stick figures

The files in this repository define stick figures which can be used to depict the 88 astronomical constellations.

They were produced by the author for the purposes of generating all of the sky charts on the website https://in-the-sky.org, which is maintained by the author. They are also utilised by StarCharter, a command-line tool for producing vector-graphics charts of the night sky, written by the author.

Background

There is no defined standard shared between planetarium programs for which stars should be connected in order to construct stick figures. However, the idea of drawing such stick figures was popularised by H.A. Rey in his 1952 children's book The Stars: A New Way To See Them. Most planetarium programs use some simplifications of the figures which appear in Rey's book.

For historical authenticity, the file constellation_lines_rey.dat lists the stick figures (almost) exactly as they appear in Rey's book, transcribed by the author (Dominic Ford) from Rey's original diagrams into the Hipparcos catalog numbers of the stars to be connected. Some of the figures are quite elaborate and include connections to very faint stars (mag 5-6).

The file constellation_lines_simplified.dat lists some simplified stick figures, invented by the author (Dominic Ford). They are similar to those used in many planetarium programs, but considerably simpler than those which appear in Rey's book. Specifically, some of Rey's stick figures include connections to very faint stars (mag 5-6), whereas the figures below mostly only include stars of fourth magnitude or brighter, except in the faintest constellations.

Data format

Each line of the files constellation_lines_simplified.dat and constellation_lines_simplified.dat list a series of stars, referenced by their Hipparcos numbers (The Hipparcos star catalogue can be freely downloaded here http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/Cat?I/239).

To construct stick figures, connect each of the stars on each line in turn. At the end of each line of the file, lift your pen and start a new line to connect the list of stars on the next line of the file.

Alternative data formats

For ease of use, these designs of stick figures are also available in the form of a listing the RA and Dec (J2000) of the stars to be connected, or in the form of the HR numbers of the stars (HR numbers are the catalogue numbers of the stars in the Yale Bright Star Catalog).

The Python script process_stick_figures/constellationLines.py generates these alternative data files from the original.

License

This data is distributed under the Gnu General Public License. It is (C) Dominic Ford 2015 - 2019.

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The files in this repository define stick figures which can be used to depict the 88 astronomical constellations.

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