By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
I saw something the other day that said the Perseid meteor shower is ramping up in the coming days, but there is some good viewing now too. So, on Monday night, I stepped out for a little bit and almost immediately saw a shooting star. Then, nothing. But, while I was looking for more meteors, I started trying to pick out constellations.
I always wanted to know the constellations, but I never really bothered to learn them. I know Ursa Major, and Orion, but other than those two, none of them ever stuck. I’d see them in an illustration, but it never really looked like what it was supposed to represent. Then, when I looked at the sky, I couldn’t find the stars that made those shapes.
Maybe it was that I never knew exactly where to look, either, when I did go looking for them. I was a kid, and no one ever really bothered to point them out to me. It wasn’t the kind of thing my parents were into, I suppose. We didn’t go camping, really. We spent nights out on the river, and on my grandparent’s boat. But we were involved in night time activities. Fishing. Roasting marshmallows over a fire. Shooting off fireworks.
I also have fond memories of sitting on the front porch swing with my mom, enjoying the cooler summer nights – especially on the rainy ones.
My mom, I’m sure, pointed out the Big Dipper to me at some point, and once I learned in school that this was also Ursa Major – the Big Bear – that nugget wasn’t going anywhere. I only know Ursa Major because of the Big Dipper. It still doesn’t look anything like a bear to me, but it absolutely looks like a dipper, and I can almost always find it in the night sky.
Likewise Orion, with his three star belt and the superbright Betelguese at his shoulder, is always easy to find.
You’d think with these two touchstones, I could locate the others. But it was never really a priority, until now. I wanted to learn them, but not enough to actually do it.
I’ve been thinking about the stars sporadically since I moved home. I didn’t realize how much I had missed the bright stars, and being able to pick out the Milky Way, until I came home and could do it again.
Now, I want to take the time to learn.
The other day I downloaded a star map app for my phone, and I played with it a little during the day, but I haven’t taken it outside at night yet. I will in the coming weeks and months.
Our toddler has become enamored of the moon in recent months. I took him out to see the full moon last month, and he waved, and yelled, and blew kisses to it, and generally had a fabulous time.
He’s also had a long time fascination with stars, which he calls “tinkles” (because of “Twinkle, twinkle, little star,” naturally) and he’s drawn to anything that has a picture of a “tinkle” on it. The smile when he recognizes and points out a new “tinkle” on something is fantastic.
I don’t want him to ever lose the joy he gets from things like that.
So I’m finally learning the constellations, and I will point them out to him, and teach them to him if he wants to learn. We have such beautiful skies out here. It would be a shame not to enjoy them, and the smiles they bring.
Jeremy D. Wells can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org