Those Stars at Night

When was the last time that you marveled at the specks that dotted the black blanket of the night sky?

When was it when you last traced those dots to form shapes and crooked lines?

I have a vivid memory of those times, now those scenes have been passing tangent to my memory.

I remember myself less than a score years ago, holding a photocopied page of a star map in one hand and a flashlight in another. I was peering through the night sky, plotting the visible stars, connecting the dots.

The evening firmament was so transparent then. The horizon was only gleaming faintly, giving more room for the darkness of the night to conquer  most of the sky. The spilled Milky Way was always painted in the sky whenever I raise my eyes.

Those happened in my early years in my hometown in the provinces. And I am uncertain if that will happen again.

As far as I can remember, I got that photocopy of the star map from Encyclopedia Americana. I got interested in it when I was browsing at my grade school library. It was a sheet of the names and contours of the constellations inside two black circles. One circle for the northern sky, and another for the southern sky, I think.

Another source of my fascination was the 1986 Reader’s Digest World Almanac. The stars have virtually remained unchanged for millions of years, so a reference  antedated a decade or so would not be erroneous.

I always looked first for the three stars that forms an almost straight line–Orion’s belt. It was the easiest to find. From there, I could locate the nearby stars.

I would also look for the Polaris or the North Star of the constellation Ursa Minor, which others call as the Big Dipper (but I insist in my mind to call it Ursa Major being its more acceptable astronomical nomenclature).

I would also seek the Pleiades. Also easily visible were Taurus, Gemini, Canis Major and Cassiopeia. I think I only dared to locate Draco once for it stretched over the whole sky, thus eye-straining to trace.

I was captured with amazement then. How could the sky be so beautiful and astonishing? How could they affect a curious boy that immensely (and I believe thousands and millions of people more)?

Once I was jeered at by a gatekeeper soldier (for we lived near a military camp) for foolishly tracing the stars. But to me then, I was merely discovering the vast cosmos that my eyes could set on in my own terms. I was wondering, at my early age, the unfathomable wisdom of the night sky.

Now looking at pictures generated by powerful and space telescopes available on the internet only heightens my curiosity. Why do those stunning bodies exist if it seems impossible to reach them, in reality and in theory? Or could it be branded as “For Your Eyes Only”?

I do not know more than what I believe now. (But I hope to see them closely someday and have my questions answered). Am I logical to surmise that there exists more stunning objects beyond what our eyes and telescopes could make out? Beyond what we could imagine and dream of? If so, pondering about them would be inept. Looking at them as they are at present is a delight in itself.

Stars. Nebulae. Galaxies. Dark Matter. &c. These are too much for me. All I understand is their beauty that have amazed the eyes and minds of our ancestors and the generations to come. We die in our short lifetime, but they last way way longer. Perhaps a proof of eternity?

***

I really loved remembering those scenes of my childhood. I hope I can do it again even just in my dreams. I hope I can relive those moments again–when I was free from worries and everything seemed perfect and unblemished.

Now I regard stars in an allegorical fashion. I see them as solitary figures (or persons perhaps), glittering in their own right and place. To us they are clusters of luminous bodies there to entertain and amaze our eyes. But in another account they stay alone at the centre of their own solar systems, also looking at other stars thousands and millions of light-years away.

But they have to shine, though, and die eventually. Others are visible but a lot more go unnoticed.

***

By  the way, It is great to have a sky map application on smart phones. I have a Google Sky Map on mine. Now I can check on the stars wherever at night. I can now even mark which are planets. I’ve seen Jupiter, by the way. It’s a marvelous thing to have that app on phones. I wish the sky turns cloudless in the coming weeks, and I hope to be out of town to see the night sky away from the bustling lights of the urban world.

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