Symbols for One Hundred Year Star-Diary

From December 2007 to February 2008, I worked with artist Alec Finlay on a number of symbols for astronomical events. These symbols appear in the book One Hundred Year Star-Diary, which contains a page for each year and symbols for notable celestial events that take place in that year.

New constellation symbols

Meteor showers are named after the constellation containing their radiant, so I wanted to have their symbols be based on their namesake constellations' symbols. Only the 12 zodiacal constellations and Ophiuchus have traditional symbols, so in order to create symbols for all of the meteor showers in the diary, I had to create symbols for 5 non-zodiacal constellations. Since one of these was Ursa Minor, I took the opportunity to make a symbol for Ursa Major as well.

Perseus's symbol is based on the famous pose of Perseus holding up the severed head of Medusa. Lyra is the lyre, so my symbol is based on the iconic lyre used to symbolize music & the arts. Orion, Ursa Minor, and Ursa Major all contain very recognizable star patterns - Orion's Belt, the Little Dipper, and the Big Dipper respectively - so their symbols are diagrams of those patterns. Finally, the obsolete constellation Quadrans Muralis is named after the astronomical instrument called a Mural Quadrant, so my symbol is a depiction of that device.


Perseus

Lyra

Orion

Ursa Minor

Ursa Major

Quadrans Muralis

Meteor shower symbols

As mentioned above, each meteor shower is named after a constellation, and its symbol incorporates its namesake constellation. For the "meteor shower" symbol itself, I use three small circles leaving trails radiating out and down from a point at the bottom of the constellation symbol.

Four of the showers are named more specifically - the Delta and Eta Aquarids are named after particular stars in Aquarius, and the Northern and Southern Taurids are two (related) showers with radiants in Taurus. For the two Aquarid showers, I combined the Greek letters Delta and Eta (in lowercase, as is the astronomical custom) with the symbol for Aquarius. For the two Taurid showers, I used the symbol for Taurus and added an N or S (which are not quite universal symbols for North and South but are close) above or below the horns. (Putting north up and south down is basically universal at this point.)


Delta Aquarids

Eta Aquarids

Northern Taurids

Southern Taurids

Geminids

Leonids

Perseids

Lyrids

Orionids

Ursids

Quadrantids

Occultations

For lunar occultations and planetary occultations, I created a symbol that could be used as a combinator that depicts two circles, one in front of the other. The front circle contains the symbol of the occulting planet or moon, and the rear circle has either the symbol or the standard abbreviation of the star above it. I considered making new symbols for each occulted star but it turned out to make the combined symbol too complicated. (Not all of these occultations ended up being included in the final diary.)

Occultations of stars


Luna Occults Regulus
(Alpha Leonis)

Luna Occults Antares
(Alpha Scorpii)

Mercury Occults Zuben-el-genubi
(Alpha Librae)

Mercury Occults Imad
(Theta Ophiuchi)

Venus Occults Regulus
(Alpha Leonis)

Venus Occults Zavijava
(Beta Virginis)

Venus Occults Albaldah
(Pi Sagittarii)

Venus Occults Cappa
(Rho-1 Sagittarii)

Mars Occults Imad
(Theta Ophiuchi)

Occultations of planets


Luna Occults Mercury

Luna Occults Venus

Luna Occults Mars

Luna Occults Jupiter

Luna Occults Neptune

Mercury Occults Mars

Mercury Occults Jupiter

Mercury Occults Neptune

Venus Occults Jupiter

Mars Occults Jupiter

Eclipses

There are 3 kinds of solar eclipses and 3 kinds of lunar eclipses. For the solar eclipses, I combined the symbols for the sun and the moon (adding rays to the sun for the total and annular eclipses). For the lunar eclipses, I considered that, since a lunar eclipse is the shadow of the earth on the moon, from the sun's point of view the earth is obscuring the moon. Thus, I created symbols based on the symbol for Earth being in front of the symbol for the moon.

(The moon will never actually be a crescent during an eclipse but the crescent is the symbol for the moon even when it's full or new.)


Total Solar Eclipse

Annular Solar Eclipse

Partial Solar Eclipse

Total Lunar Eclipse

Partial Lunar Eclipse

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

Transits

For Transits of Mercury and Transits of Venus, I created a symbol depicting the symbol for the appropriate planet with the crossbar extended into an arrow, crossing the symbol for the sun.


Transit of Mercury

Transit of Venus

Visits

The diary also mentions comet appearances and the close approach of the asteroid 99942 Apophis. For Halley's Comet, I added an H to a classical comet symbol. For other periodic comets, I suggested placing the number of the comet within the same symbol. (No comets other than Halley ended up being listed in the final diary.)

Since Apophis is the Greek name for the Egyptian snake-god Apep, I based its symbol on traditional depictions of Apep, adding a star as was typical of 19th-century asteroid symbols.


Halley's Comet

4P/Faye

99942 Apophis

Conjunction

In 2060, all 5 naked-eye planets will be in a close conjunction. For a symbol for this, I used the existing Conjunction symbol and added the traditional symbols for the 5 planets involved. (This conjunction will occur in 2040 and 2100 as well, but in those cases it will be closer to the sun and thus harder to see. This makes those conjunctions more interesting for astrologers but less interesting for astronomers.)


Grand Conjunction

All symbols on this page created and copyright © 2008 by Denis Moskowitz and Alec Finlay. Permission is universally granted to use them for nonprofit purposes. Please email for other permissions. This page last updated April 2, 2008.

Other new astro symbols