Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Astronomy Marion's Lazy Way
I made a lovely discovery when we were living in the little green house. Each evening, before bed, I would go outside to brush my teeth. As I brushed, I'd look up at the stars. The big dipper was, a that time, the only constellation I could recognize. It was always there, but it moved as the evening progressed. I watched it, day by day, swinging around the North Star. I learned how to tell North in a personal way that I'd never felt before, and I also realized that I could tell the time by the position of the big dipper. If I had been able to stay inside for my tooth-brushing, I wouldn't have understood this.
Later on, when we'd acquired livestock that needed a bedtime feeding, I learned to have the same kind of familiarity with the winter stars. Orion is my special friend. I watch him march across the sky all winter long, a bit further west every night, followed in the spring by the constellations of Taurus and Gemini. By that time of year, I'm starting to go to bed before the stars come out, so it's the winter constellations that I know the best.
Having a routine that gets you outside makes the study of astronomy a natural, easy thing. You trade the "convenience" of indoor plumbing for the joy of being familiar with the night.