The Starry Night

OrionThis is an image of most of the Orion Constellation. It is without a doubt the most recognizable constellation in the night sky. Everyone knows the Big Dipper, but most can’t find it without a lot of work. Orion blazes in the sky; there is no missing it.

And I hate it. I go outside most nights and look at the stars—even when I don’t go out during the day. And Orion is always there. It taunts me. Not the whole thing; just the belt. It is pretty close to a straight line. But it isn’t quite straight. Aesthetically, I find it aggravating. And it brings out my mostly latent obsessive-compulsive behavior. It needs to be fixed and yet I am powerless to do anything.

Orion is also a useless constellation. It doesn’t tell me anything about the rest of the night sky. It just sets there daring me to adjust its belt. Compare it to the Big Dipper, which is responsible for all of my star gazing knowledge. I know where three stars are thanks to it. If you follow the handle, the first bright star you come to will be Arcturus. I remember this because I follow the arc of the dipper to Arcturus. Following along further, you come to Spica. For whatever strange reason, I imagine the arc ending in a spike. And perhaps most useful of all: if you follow the front edge of dipper up, you will come to Polaris or the “North Star.”

You could use this knowledge to navigate by, but I never have. I always figure it’s easier to pull over and ask someone. But it is very useful in romantic encounters. And my knowledge level seems optimal. Most women find it charming when a man points out two or three stars. More than that makes them feel that there may be a quiz at the end of the evening.

So there you have it: two constellations, three stars, and my nightly struggles with OCD.

Afterword

I absolutely hate this song:

It isn’t that I don’t like Vincent van Gogh, although he is not exactly a favorite of mine. And it isn’t that I don’t like Don McLean, because he definitely had his moments. But this is sentimental crap. Just because van Gogh was a great artist does not mean that he was some great guy. He wasn’t trying to set us free. He was trying to sell some paintings. What most bugs me about the song is the last line, “They’re not listing still, perhaps they never will.” Oh yeah, coming a hundred years after van Gogh when the artist’s paintings sell for millions, Don McLean makes a bold claim about how “they” (that is: those idiots who are not Don McLean) will never understand him. As van Gogh would say, “Oy vey!”

This is so much better:

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “The Starry Night

  1. Wow. You managed to mention at least four things that really irritate me.

    First of all, the ancient Greeks were very adept at getting everyone to agree that a cluster of stars looked like a warrior and not a stripper or absolutely nothing, but they were terrible at connect the dots.

    Secondly, you’re right, if you aren’t familiar (because you don’t really care) about the wonders of the night sky, it is charming to have someone point out constellations or the Milky Way. What’s irritating are amateur astronomers who like to play planetarium narrator and think that staring into a telescope is a universally fascinating way to spend an evening. You know, the sort of person who sees himself as a young Galileo rather than just another guy with telescope and a lot of free time.

    Then there’s navigation. If I were alone and disoriented in a 5-acre forest, nothing, not the sun, the moon, the stars, nor which side of anything had moss growing on it, would help to save me from death from exposure or lack of water. With my eyes closed, I can get turned around in the shower. Navigation is for satellites and bitchy GPS units which are constantly saying, "Recalculating".

    Fourth: Don McLean’s song Vincent has always made me sad. Sad that Don McLean was allowed to produce it. I will turn off the radio until I’m sure it’s over. I HATE that song.

    The fifth element that annoys me is Jonathan Richman. I have seen him at least three times in very small venues and in a tree for the movie "There’s Something About Mary". Amusing and even sweet at times, his songs are completely interchangeable. Weird Al he is not. Actually, it isn’t really Jonathan Richman that I find so irritating, as the memories associated with him. You know what they are, so thanks for that.

    The sixth thing that irritates me is OCD, but the medication helps.

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