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.

Pins in the ceilingNow 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.

StarsWhat 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 on the right.  Notice how the dots seem to move by themselves.

IllusionUpdate (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.

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