• Kylie Blair

Written in the Stars

By Kylie Caraway and Emma Brito

Written in the Stars operates like a digital puzzle that requires teamwork between 20 participants and their phone screens in order to view the entire night sky. It begins with a physical printed map of the sky with the constellations’ names, but is void of their images. To see a constellation, participants must go online on their phone, click on a link for a specific constellation, and then raise and tilt their phones slightly, as though they are viewing the sky through their phone. Once the phone is tilted to a specific degree, the image of the constellation will appear. In order to see all 20 constellations at once, there must be 20 people participating in order to piece the map and its proper constellations together.

The fact that each screen only displays one constellation  at a time is an important feature. When used alone, the screen only offers a small fragment of the night sky that is visible. This means that the screens, and the people holding them, are reliant on the interaction with others in order to complete the puzzle and entire image of the night sky.

For more information: our process journal


Our project can be contextualized through a couple of different avenues. As was touched on previously, it was important to us to include the astrological constellations because of the personal connection and sense of ownership people feel for their sign. We don’t need to look further than the fact horoscopes are a staple in nearly every newspaper.  A stir was even caused because of this  in 2011. Astronomers said the moon’s gravitational pull on the Earth had changed the axis of the Earth, resulting in different astrology signs for each month. After public commotion, NASA had to put out a statement reminding the community that astrology is, in fact, not science.

Stars, and the night sky in general, have been a popular subject throughout history in various forms of art, and later in media. From its initial introduction by the Babylonians as a storytelling technique, to its representation in artwork, such as Salvador Dali’s illustrations of the signs and Vincent Van Gogh’s iconic “The Starry Night,” to astronomy’s current popularity as both a marketing and social tool, there is no question regarding human affinity for the stars. Due to the ubiquity of astrology and the love of stargazing, this project is relatable to a wide audience. We wanted to capitalize on the social aspect of this activity as well, and the 20 screen requirement allowed up to do this.

While currently Written in the Stars currently serves as an installation which encourages communication and interaction, Written in the Stars could be further developed as an educational tool to teach astronomy. This project could additionally be used as a data visualization tool. Both NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope that monitors astronomical phenomena and the European Space Agency’s Gaia telescope that has produced a revolutionary catalog of the structure of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy serve as a model for this project.

In the end, Written in the Stars has the potential to be used for discussions about physical sciences as well as social sciences, as a digital puzzle that can be used for entertainment, group participation, and to illustrate “the unique cognitive-emotional link that makes us the intelligent creatures we are” as we sort through pieces of “randomness” and “information” in order to create a full, comprehensive picture of our surroundings (Mutalik).

References and Influences

It’s impossible to talk about our Written in the Stars project without mentioning the Sky Map (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.stardroid&hl=en) app. It serves as both inspiration and aspiration for this project. While our project differs from Sky Map because of our focus on the interaction of people working together versus an individual experience, Sky Map is thorough and places all the constellations within one space. We would like to move this project forward to include Geolocation of the constellations, as Sky Map has effectively implemented throughout their app.

When we searched online for images of constellations and maps, we noticed that there were extreme variations of constellation forms, number of stars, and location of constellations. We decided to use a reputable source, National Geographic, (https://www.nationalgeographic-maps.com/media/catalog/product/cache/7/image/8ecabcfb697832bc77ac7e2547ded39f/x/n/xng195712a_90.jpg) as our resource for constellation formations, locations, and our map iteration.

Kelsey Oseid’s book, What We See in the Stars: An Illustrated Tour of the Night Sky (https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/553191/what-we-see-in-the-stars-by-kelsey-oseid/9780399579530/) provided inspiration for visual aesthetic, as well as information about constellations. Although we were unable to get animations to run in this prototype, Oseid’s book will continue to be a great reference through the development of this project into an interactive storytelling tool about constellations, astrology, and the science behind our universe.

Astrology.com (www.astrology.com) provided us with the horoscopes and dates for each of the zodiac signs. During the installation, we handed out slips of paper with the constellation, dates of the zodiac, our website link, and their horoscope. This provided an extra entertaining detail to get participants engaged with their constellations before the installation began.

This was the initial code for the array we used. We altered both the size of the ellipses and the colour of the background to better suit our phone screens. Other code was gradually simplified, altered and added, from changes in frame rates, to position and flow of the orbit, to the number of stars.

This is where we received the code for the Gyroscope/ Accelerometer. We used this code to measure the phone’s position as we moved and tilted the phone. We realized we would only be using the Beta variable, so we removed the Alpha and Gamma. We then deleted the rectangle and code that showed the values of each axis. In the end, we ran a simple “if” statement, so that when the Beta variable was above 80, the code would draw the constellation.

We also referenced p5js.org (http://p5js.org) and Make: Getting Started with p5.js for multiple portions of our code.


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