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By Jupiter!

A blog about the stars, astronomy gifts, and other starry musings by the folks behind Indigo Night.

On the horizon

by Van Wymelenberg
February 22, 2010

Hello Indigo blog readers, this is Morgan King interrupting your usual blog author to explain all about making custom horizons for your Indigo Night prints based on your photographs. I’ve been doing the graphic design work for Indigo for many years, and have created lots of unique horizons for our customers in that time. Now Indigo Night is formally offering the service to everyone, so I’m here to explain how it works and what we require to make it happen!

There are several factors to consider when choosing the appropriate photograph for us work with – it can be done from less exacting images, but your satisfaction is more likely from photos that follow as many of these guidelines as possible:

  • Photos taken at sunset or sunrise are always the easiest and fastest to work from – it keeps the image from having sharp shadows while still having a distinct separation of earth and sky, which is excellent conditions for digitally extracting the horizon. Night time photos are ok, obviously, and they often have the benefit of having all the lights in the area being turned on, but if the skyline disappears into the dark of night, it can be time consuming to cut it out accurately.

  • The horizon part of the image should be as short and wide as possible! Think PANORAMA. The most common difficulty we encounter is the natural tendency to center the image, to ‘fill the frame’ with your subject: that makes for a great photo, but for the night sky print we need room for the sky. The horizon elements should be about 1/5 of the overall print area. It still needs to stretch across the length of the image, too. There’s a lot of ways to massage an image into fitting, but the better fit it is from the start, the better! Back up!

  • The photograph should be as large and high resolution as possible. Digital cameras made in the last few years usually take photos that are high enough resolution to work for an Indigo Night print, but small images, such as those taken from cellphone cameras, are usually too small and grainy to be manipulated and printed at a quality that matches the rest of the Indigo print. We don’t require the images to be full print resolution (300ppi), but the larger and higher resolution the image, the better and more quickly the image will be able to be created. At the risk of stating the obvious, the print needs to belong to you.

  • Try to choose an image that’s as unpopulated as possible – photographs with a lot of people can be problematic in several ways. Since Indigo Night tries to choose the best possible time in the night to get the moon, planets, and the best constellations visible, the exact time that the print is made for can vary quite a bit, so a photo that was taken
    at 6pm after a wedding might need to be used for a print that has stars from just before midnight, so including people would be pretty incongruous. Another reason not to include people in the photo is that the night sky print has a quiet, still beauty to it, and people frozen in motion can weaken the overall effect and lessen the timeless gracefulness of it. Finally, removing people from an image, while certainly possible, greatly increases the amount of time it takes to create the image!

Keeping those few guidelines in mind, we can work together to create a totally unique skyline! If you have any questions about how this process works or if an image is suitable for a custom horizon, please contact us! Even if the photo you’re dreaming of using doesn’t meet the exact guidelines, that doesn’t mean we can’t give it a shot – we’ve pulled off some amazing transformations in the past! Also, if you have a creative or unique idea you’d like to pursue with your custom horizon, we’re open to discussing unusual requests!

If the photograph seems like a good addition to our catalog we’ll do the development for free. If it’s just going to be for you and you alone, we’ll shoot you a quote based on your photograph. Prices usually fall between $50 and $100, rarely more, and sometimes less, especially if it’s a quick and simple rendering, such as adding your own steeple into one of our existing treelines. (By the way, that’s a really special thing to do for an milestone anniversary gift — if you can track down the steeple from the church where the long married couple tied the knot!)

What's Your Angle on That?

by Van Wymelenberg
February 19, 2010

The other day my wife commented on an image of the sun and moon, shown together in the same frame, lovely and amazing, at the north pole. The image was posted on a co-worker’s door. Michelle brought the amazing image home last night at my prompting. Hah. No way.

I did a google image search for ‘sun moon north pole’ to see what I could see on this, and 516,000 images were returned. The first page of results shows how endemic the proliferation of this image is:

I started following the links to see what people were saying about this image. “An amazing picture of the sunset at the northpole. The moon was very close that night. You’ll probably never see another image like this.” seemed to be the most popular caption. It was everywhere.

It was in a lot of inspirational and spiritual blogs. Most remarked on the stark beauty at the pole. It was on a lot of alarmist blogs ("It’s melting, it’s melting). (Well, it is melting, but not quite like this.) And a lot of Political blogs: somehow both the right and left claim it to prove their point of view. A few blogs de-bunked it.

Here is the image, a bit closer:

I traced the image back to fantasy artist Inga Nielsen

A quick look through her gallery shows many, many fantasy images. Strange worlds with their very own celestial mechanics.

Somehow, this particular image was selected as the Astronomy Picture of the Day, NASA’s brilliant and beautiful website, where each day about a zillion people receive via email or by navigation/download at this URL an exceptionally cool image of something to do with space. Each image has a short narrative written by a scientist. And usually several interesting links.

Nielsen’s image was the APOD on June 20th, 2006. I suppose it got passed around, and taken as “real” since the source is legitimate. Hmm. Should have read the caption.

The thing is, by some beautiful quirk of fate, or guiding hand, the sun and moon seem to be the same size in our sky. Astronomers call this the ‘angular size.’ The perceived size of the moon and sun derives from their actual size combined with their actual distance. It’s wild that these two objects’ perceived size are almost identical. Think ‘Solar Eclipse’ – one of nature’s most awe-inspiring moments.

Anyhow, the sun is a fixed point of light, the earth and the moon’s orbits do not vary, so the angular size of the moon and sun, from earth, is constant. These two objects will always appear to be the same size in our sky. This image can only exist in some other world, imagined or real, but not on our home planet.

We love hearing from you!

by Van Wymelenberg
February 17, 2010

A few recent emails

Hello Van, I haven’t spoken to my father yet but I was thrilled to receive the following email from him early this morning…

“Thank you both so much for the lovely star map / image. Of course I ran my own computer program and you will glad to know that it is an accurate image of the sky for that date! It really is very handsome, with the bare trees and the lone house, and with Orion in the sky along with the moon and planets. It is a very special birthday present.”

…He is SO hard to buy for, so I am very grateful to you for enabling us to bring him a smile on his milestone 70th birthday.

Happy Holidays, Nora HF [nb: Nora’s father is a retired astronomer. Especially nice to get this note. -Van]

I have received my print and I cannot thank you enough. It is beautiful and perfect in so many ways. The quality and workmanship is amazing and the attention to detail in the horizon just made me catch my breath. This is going to be my husband’s Christmas gift this year and your company surpassed all of my wildest dreams in this print.

Thank you so very much, Paulette L.

Just wanted to let you know that our friends absolutely loved the print! They said it is their favorite gift ever!

Thanks so much! Have a great day! Chrissi C.

Just to let you know the print was a HUGE success. It was perfect… even brought tears to my husband’s eyes. Thank you for working with me and getting to me so quickly. If you ever need a reference or referral… I’m the one.

Debra E.

Have something to add? Post a comment below.

Moonrise in Taurus

by Van Wymelenberg
November 30, 2009

A full moon will rise in Taurus at sunset tonight. Look low in the east in the deepening twilight to see the first of two full moons this month. The second full moon will occur on the 31st. (See my earlier post on the Belewe Moon.)

The full moon is visible all night long, setting west at dawn. I love the full moon at dawn, the quickening as it drifts toward the horizon, gaining in perceived size… with the rising sun, opposite, wrapping its first light into the darkened corners of the woods and fields.

Why seven plates?

by Van Wymelenberg
December 03, 2009

A friend recently passed along a link to the website of Kram/Weisshaar, a design firm out of Munich, and Stockholm. The collaboration of two brilliant, audacious and generally ubër individuals, designers Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram, (shown below at last year’s design miami/basel in a portrait by designboom).

OK. It’s a little hard for me to wrap my head around everything these people are doing… this is the kind of conceptual work that rarely finds a permissive moment. But it is finding those moments. Last year they orchestrated a project called My Private Sky.

It’s our Indigo Night concept, but on a different scale, with different media: plates. Very, very nice plates.

Quoting from the project notes:

The MY PRIVATE SKY project began as the result of an in-depth analysis of the rich tradition and processes at PORZELLAN MANUFAKTUR NYMPHENBURG which since its foundation in 1747 has been owned by and under the stewardship of the Bavarian royal family, the house of Wittelsbach. This analysis prompted the designers to rethink the centuries-old processes of Nymphenburg in a contemporary context. The MY PRIVATE SKY software developed by Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram is a process oriented tool that transforms defined variables: latitude, longitude, altitude, date and time of birth parametrically to enable and enhance the specific calculation of a precise view. With this act the generic design drawing is replaced by a unique data set calculated for each single set of plates.

The process starts with a rendering of the night sky for a given date at a specific location. Sound familiar? The software is proprietary, but appears similar to the software we use here.

The output is to vellum, at size, and is handed off the artists and artisans at the Porzellan Werks. Our output is much the same, but here the endeavors diverge. Ours continues down a mostly digital path. Theirs is definitely analog.

I pulled these images from their website, Kram/Weisshaar. The images are © Frank Stolle, and I am using them without permission, and I trust all parties involved won’t mind.
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Just Because

The night sky print which arrives for no particular reason, other than to celebrate the gift of love that is your beloved, is cherished like no other.


Each of us has a story that begins in a single moment. Poets and philosophers from Shakespeare to Tennyson, from Moore to Jung, share a common fascination with the night sky at the moment of birth, and the idea that the moon and stars stand in timeless, silent witness to this moment.

Wedding Anniversaries

The night sky print, showing the moon and stars just as they appeared on the night you met, the moment of your first kiss, or your wedding night, is an exceptional anniversary gift. Appropriate for any year, especially so for the 1st anniversary, the year of the ‘paper’ gift.

New Baby

The night sky print, showing the moon and stars just as they appeared on the child’s first starry night, with your words – funny, wise, sweet, hopeful, perhaps a favorite quote from a story or song – makes a beautiful keepsake.

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