Katie Peek

Hello! I'm Katie Peek. I make every one of these star maps.

I started my career as an astrophysicist. I spent dozens of nights observing the stars, directing one of the world’s biggest telescopes across the sky in search of planets circling other stars. 

Today, I create data visualizations for science magazines. My work has appeared in Scientific American, Popular Science, Audubon, and the New York Times MagazineCheck out my projects, if you're interested. Or my Instagram.

One warm April evening at home in Baltimore, I was toying with the idea of painting a night sky on my porch roof. (I may still do that one day.) I was thinking through the code I would need to write if I wanted to place the stars accurately. Specifically, I was pondering which coordinates and time I would choose to in order to place my favorite constellation—Cygnus—in the center. And then I thought: “Oh, a map of the sky would be an amazing way to celebrate the moment a baby is born. Or—a wedding!”

Like a person possessed, I wrote the mountains of code needed to generate these star maps, based on the databases I used as an astrophysicist and the visualization languages I use at a data journalist. I did it in a month of late nights, after putting my baby to bed and after finishing what was then my full-time job as a magazine editor. It was a true labor of love. 

Today, I’m a freelance visual journalist and a parent to an additional baby, but the maps remain—though I've made some updates along the way.

Every map I make is an honor. I love the tangible connections they create: They connect me to a special moment in time and space. And they connect others to the sky.