The Celestial Sphere

Looking out the kitchen window I saw a neat cloud formation. I got distracted and then once again remembered the cloud; the pattern had spread a bit but was still really interesting so I hurried to get some cellphone shots.

While doing some research for this post I learned from the Wikipedia entry for Sky that the sky is also called the celestial dome and in the field of astronomy is called the celestial sphere. I loved this term – hence my title.

Sky photos taken by Liz on 30 Aug 2018; Gore, Southland, New Zealand

The Celestial Sphere

The reason I was so taken with the sky was because the cloud looked like it was being blown across the sky at great force – from some source out of my sight.

It made me think of old maps that I’ve occasionally seen with faces representing the Winds blowing onto the map.

I found it difficult finding such a map but eventually found this amazing map with TWELVE winds, i.e. twelve faces all blowing!

** Please click on the map to enlarge (1500 px wide) **


Typvs Vniversalis
This world map, from a 1540/42 edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia, shows the full twelve winds designated by Aristotle. The twelve-wind system remained throughout the Middle Ages as the one most commonly used. In keeping with the mythologic origin of winds for direction finding, they are of necessity placed beyond the confines of the known world–beyond the earth itself, in an outer, celestial sphere.  cc by-nc-sa 4.0

Sebastian Münster, German 1489-1552

From:   Charting Neptune’s Realm | III. Where the Winds Blow

Sky Photos. Gore, Southland, NZ


Further Reading

There is more information about Sebastian Münster at Götzfried Antique Maps (in English as well as German); to directly access the page that has info about him and further examples of his work click on this link.

Here is one of the examples that really interested me:

Coloured woodcut map of the American continent.
(If you don’t mind gruesome, look for ‘Canibali’ – macabre but made me laugh.)
Direct Link to further information about this map.

** Please click on the map to enlarge (1200 px wide) **


Text and Sky Photos by Liz; Exploring Colour (2018)

16 thoughts on “The Celestial Sphere

Add yours

  1. Interesting shots and I love the old maps. I once worked as a weather observer for Environment Canada. As you go up in the atmosphere the wind is going in different directions and at different speeds, that’s why you get different clouds and shapes at different heights. When I was getting my thesis for my Geography degree, I worked in the map lab, teaching students how to read contours, etc. on maps. I love maps. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What you’ve done is really interesting Louella. I remember a few years back looking out the window and noticing clouds at two different levels in the sky going in entirely different directions! I watched with a great sense of wonder 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed your kitchen window views and the historical diversions they led to. The twelve winds must have seemed a capricious and untrustworthy bunch before meteorology arrived to explain them.

    Liked by 1 person

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