FMP: Development work on the star charts

For this blog post, I will be discussing the work I have been doing for the star charts that form the final two spreads of the book. Since I dropped the third chapter from the book, making the books into two parts, this lessens the amount of work that needs doing, but given the deadline fast approaching, there is still a lot of work to be done.


Limiting it to the northern hemisphere

I decided to limit the star charts just to the northern hemisphere for three reasons. The first was because most of the book’s readers will be in the northern hemisphere. The second was because time was badly running out at this point, so all the extra effort that could have gone into the southern hemisphere, I chose to re-direct into proof-reading to ensure what I had done was error free. The third was because it was only intended as a basic guide, in the introduction to Part 2 I stated my reasonings so the audience would understand.

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Inspiration

Star charts are normally circular, and therefore do not translate well onto a page as there is always something upside down. Planetarium apps are better like the Neave one, but aren’t much use in a printed book as there is no way of navigating around the page like there is in a digital website or app.

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However, in my research I had come across the Astronomy with Patrick Moore book that had some very basic sky charts. This gave me the initial idea, where it showed what you could see in the sky if you looked north and south. Looking at the planetarium app image above I felt that there could be some improvements to these charts.

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It sounds very silly to state it, but when I looked at the southern aspect, and saw East on the left and West on the right, it made me do a double-take and then work it out in my head! Better to understand it now then let the sub-conscious take over and a mistake made.


Creating the charts

As I had done with the constellation illustrations earlier on in this project, I drew a bounding box around the available space and copied it into Illustrator. From there, I sized the constellations to fit. As can be seen the image below, I started with the exact same constellations and had to draw 34 new ones to make the charts, which was very time consuming and boringly repetitive. This took longer than expected.

34 extra constellations had to be drawn for the star charts
34 extra constellations had to be drawn for the star charts

When I first started, the stars were at such small scale that you could not read the magnitude. This is to be expected and is perfectly fine, but it meant it wasn’t very sightly on the page. To sort this out, I ungrouped each star, removing the text and black box, to leave the white disc at the right size. To differentiate that further, I included opacities so the brightest stars are brightest when viewed on the page. I created a key, which I’ve placed below. I started with the left list but that evolved to me refining it, which is the right list.

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Below is the development that I have made, from left to right.
The stars are looking more realistic and with more contrast between them, which will help the reader pick out what stars are the brightest in the night sky to look at.

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Page Layout

Once I had developed a couple of charts, I trialled them on the page and added in some text boxes next to the constellations so the audience know what they are looking at.

I felt that there needed to be some separation between the two sections on the page, and trialled a box around the edge. However, I thought this looked really clumsy and broke up the flow of the page.

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A much simpler solution was to place a line between the two halves of the page, which gives some definition to it, but lets the margins provide space around the edge, something not possible with the box idea above as the margins were separated from the design.

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I had 8 charts to produce, and things were going well, but as I progressed I found I was forgetting what constellations were what (as I hadn’t placed their names next to them at this stage) and I was struggling to get a realistic appearance with correct positioning.

After producing 5 of the charts, I realised something had to change to stop me producing a sub-standard piece of design so I almost had to start from scratch again, so this was really frustrating. In the end though, I managed to complete all 8 charts, and my second attempt was much better, as by this time I was learning more and more about the positioning of the constellations relative to each other when I was transforming them from a celestial sphere to a map-style.

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Finished Spreads

The four finished constellation finder pages can be seen below. I chose to put one season on each page, as the night sky changes with each season. This meant that two spreads/four pages could be removed from the book. I am very pleased with how they look, and think they are suitable as a basic introduction as to where to look in the night sky.

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Next Step

With the book’s content complete now, I want to go through the pages of the book and see if there is anything that needs some attention before I sit down with someone to methodically proof-read the entire book to remove any mistakes.

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