Yippee! Orion is back!

Orion, the name likely brings to your mind “Orion’s belt” one of the more commonly known constellations. That is exactly what I am talking about, well not the belt but the whole constellation. I love it!

When I come home at night and he is right there over my house, it is as if he were a neon guardian angel. There are months that I don’t get to see him though. You see the stars move on a a rotation about 4 minutes different than ours so there are times that I can’t see Orion because he is “up” during the day. After a few months of his absence, I am always thrilled to see him again.

I have been fascinated with the stars for a long time. My fascination has its limits though. I want to look at them as a hobby, not a serious scholarly study. Most books written about constellations and astronomy are way too wordy and scientific for my taste. I just want to know the basics, you know, the fun stuff.

For years, I looked for a “good” (by my standards) constellation book. Notice I didn’t say ‘astronomy’, I didn’t want to get that complicated! I had heard a story about one of the constellations, and I wanted more of that sort of thing. It took awhile but finally I found it the perfect constellation book!

This book taught me many interesting stories about the constellations like this one: in Greek mythology Orion was killed by a scorpion. Asklepios, a physician who never lost a patient tried to bring him back. However, this alarmed Hades, the God of the Dead. (He didn’t want to be laid off!) So Hades asked his brother, Zeus to dispatch Askleios. Apparently, Zeus was happy to help out, but in recognition of Asklepios’ good work (sorry, you were great at your job, but I have to kill you anyway) he was put into the sky and his constellation is known as the Serpent Holder. Zeus also placed the scorpion near by in the doctor’s honor. He was careful though to place the Serpent Holder and the Scorpion far away from Orion so there wouldn’t be any more problems. Thus the Serpent Holder and the Scorpion are never seen with Orion because they are on opposite sides of the sky (that is a long time out!)

There are many other constellation stories like this one. To me that is part of the fascination of the constellations, first to know that I can look at Orion and a friend a couple states away can see it too amazes me, but then to know that people hundreds (thousands!) of years ago saw the same constellations and created stories about them, wow! That is better than an antique show any day!

Another thing that I found complicated about other astronomy books was the pictures. They show drawings of the constellations that look nothing like the arrangement of the stars! How could I remember that?! My “perfect constellation book” presents the constellations in a “dot to dot” formation so they actually look like their names! Genius! With “the perfect constellation book” in hand my children and I have spent memorable hours lying on the grass looking at star charts and the sky, making friends with Orion, Cassiopeia, the Big Dipper, and others.

THE perfect constellation book was written by the same man that brought us Curious George! Isn’t that something? Yes, H.A. Rey was a scientist. And yet he is best known for his darling children’s books. I’m not very comfortable with what that implies about our society…but that is a discussion for another day.

The book is called simply, “The Stars: A New Way to See Them” by H.A. Rey. You can get it used for about $5.00 (including shipping). I can’t think of a better way to spend $5.00. While I was checking out the price, Amazon reminded me that I bought this book in 2004, and I still recommend it to everyone who will listen. Not bad!

Orion, Cassiopeia and the others are waiting for you to pay them a visit!

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