Happy Holidays from ThinkTank Maths - 2009

22 December 2009

People of the ancient world saw gods, monsters and animals in the night sky, sketched with distant pinpoints of light. These constellations were used as memory devices to mark the locations of important stars. We have created a tool that allows you to join these heavenly creatures of legend — by finding a combination of stars that spells out your name across the Milky Way.

Your name in the stars



Modern physics and astronomy have revealed that our relationship with the stars is even closer than the ancients could have imagined. Every atom in our bodies and the Earth itself was formed in the nuclear furnace of a nova explosion — the death of a star fusing hydrogen and helium into the heavier elements of the periodic table. We now understand that stars themselves have a lifecycle, and instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope allow us to look at them right in the eye.

We use a mixture of geometry and optimisation to discover a star pattern that matches the letters of your name as closely as possible. To allow you to have a personal relationship with at least one star, we have constrained the algorithm to ensure that at least one star imaged by Hubble is contained in the constellation. It is highlighted in the image above — click the image to read more about your star.

Name:

The Astronomy Nexus HYG Database is used to plot star locations, brightness and colours.

Image credit: NASA, ESA and The Hubble European Space Agency Information Centre.

Explore other ThinkTank seasonal greetings.

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