Gateway to Millions

This is a shot of NYC’s Grand Central Station – surprisingly the No-Tripod Police were nowhere in sight.

There are two peculiarities to this ceiling: the sky is backwards, and the stars are slightly displaced. One explanation is that the constellations are backwards because the ceiling is based on a medieval manuscript that visualized the sky as it would look to God from outside the  celestial sphere. According to this explanation, since the celestial sphere is an abstraction (stars are not all at equal distances from Earth), this view does not correspond to the actual view from anywhere in the universe. The stars are displaced because the manuscript showed a (reflected) view of the sky in the  Middle Ages, and since then the stars shifted due to precession of the equinoxes. Most people, however, simply think that the image was reversed by accident.

When the embarrassed  Vanderbilt Family learned the ceiling was painted backwards, they maintained that the ceiling reflected  God’s view of the sky.

There is a small dark circle in the midst of the stars right above the image of  Pisces. In a 1957 attempt to counteract feelings of insecurity spawned by the  Soviet launch of Sputnik, Grand Central’s Main Concourse played host to an American Redstone missile. With no other way to erect the missile, the hole was cut so the rocket could be lifted into place. Historical Preservation dictated that this hole remain (as opposed to being repaired) as a testament to the many uses of the Terminal over the years.

7 responses

  1. I really like the motion of the people. I wonder how this image would look with processing it to look like a really old print?

    April 1, 2011 at 11:28 pm

  2. Super shot. It really shows what can be done with a tripod and some patience!

    April 2, 2011 at 7:38 am

  3. Nice shot, Erik!

    April 2, 2011 at 11:24 am

  4. Interesting story about the ceiling (both the painting and the hole). Terrific shot of the main concourse!

    April 9, 2011 at 10:11 am


    My father gives historical tours of Grand Central. He said Helieu, the artist, transferred the image directly from the manuscript causing it to be backwards. Later the Vanderbilts claimed the image to be from the perspective of god. It was popular for people to use small mirrors to view its reflection. The constellations are correct through the mirror and the Victorians did not have to crane their heads to see it.

    June 24, 2012 at 10:36 am

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