Where does GreaterSkies come from...
The idea of Greater Skies was forged in 2005. I am an R&D engineer specialized in printing and I thought it'd be nice to take advantage of the huge and good printers around me to print a really good star chart. Good as in thousands of stars, with colors, in their right position, as seen from a given vantage point at a given time. And big, really big.
It is the curse of the engineer: if it can be done, it will be done. I learnt how to compute the position of stars and planets, I found out about the HYG database (which is basically a catalog of stars), and I learnt how to render those stars beautifully in two dimensions (paper!). Then I put together a program that produced a nice file with thousands of stars and all the planets, with constellations and grids (it helped when they demoted Pluto from its planet status, as it was the hardest to compute for). I made the program so that it would draw pictures of the planets instead of their symbols, a feature loved by my non-astronomer friends.
It was an interesting project, and successful in a way: I made several charts as birthday presents, and gave a specially big one to the Fabra observatory here in Barcelona, where it went on display. After that, I left that program somewhere in my hard disk, and forgot about it.
Fast forward 4 years, a friend of mine was looking for a birthday present, and I remembered my old program. I offered her a personalized star chart and she thought it was a great idea, and so I found myself digging my program out of oblivion and preparing a sky chart for her.
Of course, this required changing the program. It may be because taste evolves, or because your expectations change when you grow older: but I ended up spending quite some time fine-tuning the output to make it pretty. I already owned the greaterskies.com name, and was using it to host articles on math and science for kids. I decided to re-purpose it and build a site where you could buy a personalized print or PDF file of the sky.
We have been working hard since 2006 fine tuning the prints and our website, and expanding our circle of friends. We have learnt that brides and grooms love our maps, and moms and dads do too! Even start-ups that want to immortalize the moment of their founding.
We hope you will join us on this trip to the stars!
The Greater Skies Team