The mind of Martin Krzywinski is a rich and dizzying place, teeming with fascinating questions, ideas, and inspiration. Krzywinski is a scientist and data visualizer whose primary line of work involves genome analysis for cancer research. In his spare time, though, he explores his many different interests as a scientific and visual thinker through creative projects. For the past few years, one such project has occupied him on a recurring basis each March: reimagining the digits of pi in a novel, science-based, and visually compelling way.

Today, this delightful March 14th ("Pi Day") tradition brings us the digits of pi mapped onto the night sky, as a star catalogue. Like the infinitely long sequence of pi, space has no discernible end, but we earthbound observers can only see so far. So Krzywinski places a cap at 12 million digits and groups each successive series of 12 numerals to define a latitude, longitude and brightness, resulting in a field of a million stars, randomly arranged. 

Just as humans throughout history have found figures and narratives among the stars, this new array of celestial bodies also yields a story. As a way to honor our evolutionary ancestors, Krzywinski connects the dots to create shapes of extinct animals from around the globe.

Carée projection of “Pi in the Sky” star chart
Credit: Martin Krzywinski

But he couldn’t possibly stop there, so Krzywinski takes the visualization a step further, experimenting with different projections to re-create the map in various spatial iterations.

Azimuthal projections of “Pi in the Sky” star chart
Credit: Martin Krzywinski
Hammer/Aitoff projection of “Pi in the Sky” star chart
Credit: Martin Krzywinski

To read more about the visualization, including descriptions of the animals depicted, and a poem written by the artist’s collaborator Paolo Marcazzan, visit Martin Krzywinski’s website. There, you can also explore his previous Pi Day visualizations and even purchase them as posters.