Historic Star Atlases and their Stories

Weekly Tour FlyerThomas Carlyle spoke for all of us when he lamented...
“Why did not somebody teach me the constellations, and make me at home in the starry heavens, which are always overhead, and which I don’t half-know to this day?”

In this richly illustrated presentation, come hear stories of the constellations and the early star atlases that portrayed them.

Kerry Magruder and Brent Purkaple
Sam Noble Museum Thursday, January 25 7pm
Free admission

Followed by:

  • Star Party (parking lot, weather permitting) &
  • Star Atlas viewing (History of Science Collections, OU Libraries).


“Postcards from the Universe”:  A year-long series of lectures


From the Renaissance to the dawn of the modern age, art and science fused together in the representation of the stars and constellations. Historic star atlases combined state- of-the-art scientific observation of the cosmos with appreciation for the aesthetic dimension of the sky. Galileo inscribed OU’s copy of his Starry Messenger to a poet. Art, music, literature and astronomy merge in humanity’s creative and ongoing exploration of the stars and constellations. We will examine images of the constellations from the star atlases of Bayer, Hevelius, Flamsteed, Bode and various other historical sources to discover how the wonder of the sky at night is common to science, literature and art. We will also show how to access these images for your own creative, educational, or research-related projects.

Constellation images appearing in this presentation are taken from the original rare books of the OU History of Science Collections. Many of these books were featured during 2015-2016 as part of Galileo’s World joint- exhibitions at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, the National Weather Center, and the Schusterman Library on the OU-Tulsa campus. After the presentation, a reprise of “The Sky at Night” portion of Galileo’s World will be available for viewing on the 5th floor of Bizzell Memorial Library until 10 pm.

Parking and Directions:

The presentation is at the Sam Noble Museum (formerly the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History; http://snomnh.ou.edu). After the presentation, the sky watch will be held at the Sam Noble Museum parking lot (weather permitting). The historic star atlases from the Galileo’s World exhibit are on display in The Sky Tonight reprise gallery on the 5th floor of Bizzell Memorial Library. The Library is located at 401 W. Brooks, south of Boyd St. and east of Elm St., in the heart of the OU campus. Park in any public parking area. The closest parking lot is on the corner of Elm St. and Brooks St., just west of Bizzell Library between College St. and Elm St. If this lot is full, there are two nearby parking garages, one on Elm St. and one to the north of the OU Memorial Union. Once you are parked, make your way to the Bizzell Library. Enter using the west entrance, by the clock tower. Upon entering, you will see a 1/10th scale replica of the Tower of Pisa. From there, take the elevators to the 5th floor special collections. The 5th floor Exhibit Hall will be open from 8 to 10 pm.

Click the flyer image (right) for a map and parking directions.