Glow-in-the-Dark Stars

Glow-in-the-Dark Stars

When I was younger, I would lay in bed and imagine I could see the stars through my ceiling. My dream became a reality when I turned 14 years old. Well, almost a reality. While shopping at a local craft store, most likely with my parents, I found a bottle of glow-in-the-dark paint. Being a mischievous child, I immediately painted random dots on my ceiling, thus creating my window to the heavens above.

When my parents eventually sold our house, long after I had moved out, they found that it took three layers of white paint to completely cover the glowing stars I had painted. My first thought was, why cover them? Surely a new buyer would want a room with a view of the night sky. Apparently my parents did not share my view on this topic.

Fast forward a few decades, and I stumbled across a web site called Glow Inc. They happen to sell glow-in-the-dark paint containing strontium aluminate pigment. The claims made on this site indicate this paint is 25 times stronger than the hobby store paint I used as a kid. Cool! A $10 order later, and I had a new project on my hands.

Of course, I decided I would paint our bedroom so I could lay on my bed at night and look up at my handiwork. To make it as realistic as I could this time, I downloaded a free program called Stellarium and printed a screen shot of the night sky. I then drew a 1” x 1” grid over this printout.

Now I simply needed to make a 1’ x 1’ grid on my bedroom ceiling. Since we have a popcorn ceiling, I wasn’t afraid of making small holes in the ceiling, which probably wouldn’t be visible once the pins were removed. So I grabbed my wife’s sewing pins and began to mark off one foot intervals all around the room. Using her brown sewing thread (shhh!), I would the thread back and forth across the room, tying it on the first and last pins. Voila! A perfect suspended grid on my ceiling.

Using my night sky printout as a guide, I began to place dots of V10 glow-in-the-dark paint on my ceiling one square at a time. This wasn’t very easy to do, since my neck lasted about five minutes before it felt like my head was going to fall off. That, and painting white paint on a white ceiling in the daytime means I couldn’t tell which dots I had painted from my printout. I worked down each row, running out of paint after the first five rows. I should have ordered more than 1/2 ounce of paint.

A grid on the ceiling.Once it was dark, I was able to view my progress and the effectiveness of the V10 paint. It quickly became apparent that I used a LOT of paint for each dot. Most dots were about the size of this letter “O” – which is too much. The should be the size of this period . instead. I’m waiting for more paint, but for now, here is what the stars look like in a dark room.

What really concerned me is that at night, while looking up at the stars, I started to see them move. It felt like an optical illusion. The harder I tried to keep them still, my mind saw them moving. It reminded me of the optical illusion below. Notice how the dots seem to move by themselves.

Update (12/12/09)

After a few months of looking at the stars, I have grown attached to them and they no longer make me feel like I’m moving. I still haven’t finished the other half of the room, but that’s just for lack of motivation. I’ll finish it eventually. Overall, I consider this project a success.