Photograph of a Chinese planisphere, 1911.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This image shows a photograph of a Chinese star chart, or planisphere, taken by the astronomer Edward Ball Knobel in 1911. The Chinese were amongst the first to develop detailed maps of the stars. In China, 28 asterisms are recognised along the line of the zodiac - the Sun's apparent path acros the sky. The rest of the heavens are divided into quadrants known as the Black Tortoise (North), Red Bird (South), Green Dragon (East) and White Tiger (West). These differ from Western constellations in that the stars form patterns representing whole scenes rather than individual objects, animals or people. This star chart contains all the stars visible from China and can be used as a planisphere.