The Mystery (or Mistake?) of the Grand Central Station Celestial Ceiling

The starry ceiling was one of the artistic marvels of New York’s Grand Central Station when it opened in 1913. The constellations are based largely on Johann Bayer’s star atlas Uranometria (1603), which is the first Western atlas to cover the entire celestial sphere. Astronomically the Grand Central atlas is reversed from East to West and it was widely believed to be a mistake made when the artists transferred to the ceiling the draft provided by Columbia University’s Harold Jacoby, professor of astronomy. While some had argued that this corresponded to the ancient practice of representing the Heaven from without instead of from within, a commemorative postcard which is supposed to represent the original design indicated that the constellations were indeed painted backward.

The atlas contains also a number of additional quirks which are of historical and general curiosity: (non-)reversion of Orion, the Triangulum Minus (non-standard constellation) was added during the 1945 restoration, and the hole above Pisces left from the time when the Redstone missile was exhibited in the Main Concourse in 1957, after the Soviet Sputnik was launched in the same year.

Photos 1: Grand Central Terminal celestial ceiling. The ceiling shows “left-to-right” from Aquarius to Cancer (here only to Orion, below Taurus).

Photo 2: Comparison of Orion with that of Uranometria (from Daniel Thurber, Untapped Cities)

Photo 3: Commemorative postcard from the “New Grand Central Terminal”

Lecture on “Buddhist Astral Science in Asia” at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. April 29, 2016.

 Buddhist Astral Science in Asia

Topics include Buddhist cosmology, Buddhist calendars, sources and transmission of astronomical and astrological systems.




公開講座 2015年6月18日(木)



会場:京都大学人文科学研究所東アジア人文情報学研究センター (分館)2階大会議室 アクセス
矢野道雄(京都産業大学 名誉教授)「宿曜道にみられるインドの天文学と占星術」
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An exciting evening lecture on astral science by two eminent Japanese scholars (18 Jun, 2015, Kyoto).
- Prof. Kaifu Norio (President of International Astronomical Union / Professor Emeritus of National Astronomical Observatory of Japan): “Myths and Legends on Stars, and Universe of Ancient Asia”
- Prof. Yano Michio (Professor Emeritus of Kyoto Sangyo University): “Indian astronomy and astrology as seen from the tradition of Sino-Japanese Esoteric Buddhist astral science”

*** Registration required. See (Japanese only):日本語/