About

FAQ

  1. Will my print show the moon?
  2. How do you pick the view?
  3. Can I specify an exact time and/or compass point?
  4. How accurate is the night sky that’s shown on the prints?
  5. Can you really do the prints for ANY DATE at ANY LOCATION?
  6. Why isn’t my city listed in the horizon viewer?
  7. How are the prints produced? What about mounting and framing?
  8. What are ideal viewing conditions for the prints?

Will my print show the moon?

It seems like an easy question, and the short answer is this: probably yes. The moon follows a very orderly, predictable cycle as it orbits earth. It moves from new to full over the course of about 14.4 days (waxing towards full, each night it gets fuller, moving from slender crescent to bright gibbous to full) and then from full back to new (waning towards new, each night, rising about 45 minutes later, the brilliant full moon slips back to its slender crescent arc, and then again to new.

On the day of a new moon, once a month when the moon rises and sets with the sun, the print will not show a moon — it’s simply not visible in the sky at any time.

Prints produced for days when the moon is just past new, through about last quarter, will show the evening sky with the moon. Prints from last quarter through new will show the sky just before dawn, as the crescent moon sets in the west.

You can use the U.S. Naval Observatory’s moon-phase calculator to see what the moon was doing on any given date.

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How do you pick the view?

We always try to include the moon in the print, because it’s interesting and beautiful. (This is ironic, of course, as this is the worst time, in fact, to actually view the night sky. An indigo night — a dark night, without a moon — is best for viewing the stars.) We show about 135° across the horizon, and to about 80° up from the horizon toward the zenith (overhead.) The view includes as many planets as we can possibly show, too, within the limitations of our conventions. We give preference to views that include comets and/or rare/unusual alignments over the moon. Eclipses are shown. Since the moon rises in the east, and travels south along the ecliptic, then sets in the west, you’ll rarely see a view that’s due north.

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Can I specify an exact time and/or compass point?

Yes, we’ll work with you on that. Give us a call, or write a short note in the “special instructions” when you place your order.

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How accurate is the night sky that’s shown on the print?

The print is an accurate rendering of the sky. The stars are shown in their relative positions and magnitudes of brightness and size. (Before we were allowed to sell the print at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum we had to pass muster with the astronomers at the Einstein Planetarium, by the way, demonstrating and proving the science behind what we do. Which we did.) That said, be aware that there are limitations to what can be expressed on a plane (a poster, a flat piece of paper) when the source object is essentially a sphere (the night sky, as viewed.) We prefer to think of them as interpretive illustrations, perhaps a little romanced, to enhance the clarity and help recall and celebrate the moment.

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Can you really do the prints for ANY DATE at ANY LOCATION?

Yes. Any named place, and any date, past or future. Although calculating the orbits of comets we have only seen once gets very tricky — such as with the brilliant (southern hemisphere) Comet West of the mid 70s. And the further back we go in time, the less accurate the orbits of the planets become. But these are not mistakes that are significant or meaningful unless we move back or forward several hundred years.

As far as locations are concerned, remember it’s the change in latitude (how far north or south from the equator you are) that yields a sky different than the one you might typically be used to seeing, not the longitude (how far east or west you are from Greenwich, UK.) We sometimes get calls from customers who have ordered a birth sky print for their son or daughter who had been born in a distant land — Beijing, China for example — and the customers are a little perplexed as to why the sky looks exactly the same as the one outside their window in Pittsburgh. The answer is that both Beijing and Pittsburgh are 40° north of the equator, and thus, as the earth revolves, everyone who views the sky from 40° north, anywhere on earth, will (eventually) see the exact same sky.

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Why isn’t my city listed in the horizon viewer?

Give us a call, we may be working on it right now. With over 55,000 named places in our databases, coupled with the fact that skylines are perpetually changing from year to year… well, you can see the challenge. Many of America’s iconic skylines are shown in our collection: New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver to name a few. These are rendered from panoramic photographs. But most of our skylines are illustrations. They are designed to represent or evoke the sense of a place, just as our night sky renderings are representations of a given night sky. We have over 300 horizons to choose from. Chances are excellent you’ll find something that works for you. If not, give a call and we’ll see what we can pull out of our collective hats… truth be told, most of the horizons we show in our collection were first suggested by customers. (“Say, I was trekking through the Rift Valley the other night, on my way to climb Kilamanjaro… do you have any horizons like that…?”)

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How are the prints produced? What about mounting and framing?

We print with archival pigmented dyes on a smooth 10 mil semi-gloss paper. The process is called giclee printing. It’s similar to your own home or office ink-jet printing, but on a different scale. Think “bicycle” and then “Harley-Davidson.” The prints are considered archival in that they are rated light-fast for 85 years, but they are not truly “archival” by museum standards after framing, as we frame with some materials that fall outside this narrow definition. (We cold mount with adhesive to styrene, for example, rather that use linen tapes with acid free backing boards.)

If you’d like your print framed to archival standard then you should order it unframed and go to a specialty frame shop — but honestly, it would be easier to just order a reprint in about a hundred years. Framers should cold mount or dry mount, but not to exceed 165°.

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What are ideal viewing conditions for the prints?

The prints are best viewed in bright natural light, indirect of course, straight on at about three feet, for the most accurate effect. If you place the print in a dark corner it will be tough to get the full effect of the starry night. Avoid hanging your prints in direct sunlight though, as with any print as this hastens fading (even though they are rated light fast.)

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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.

Birthdays

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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