The first star made me feel less afraid. It came out low in the sky and it was in front of me, toward the east. Other stars began to appear all around, but it was this one I kept my gaze upon. It was in the figure that we call a serpent, a star which shone green and which I knew. Now and then it was hidden by mist, yet it always came out brightly again.
Without this star I would have been lost, for the waves never changed. They came always from the same direction and in a manner that kept pushing me away from the place I wanted to reach. For this reason the canoe made a path in the black water like a snake. But somehow I kept moving toward the star which shone in the east.
This star rose high and then I kept the North Star on my left hand, the one we call “the star that does not move.” The wind grew quiet. Since it always died down when the night was half over, I knew how long I had been traveling and how far away the dawn was. ~ Scott O’Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins
Locating the Big Dipper and then the Little Dipper (and Orion) has been about the height of my astronomical knowledge most of my life. (HOW ever did I pass that junior college Astronomy class?!)
In the past few years, it has been my pleasure to find myself increasingly interested in the night sky. Sadly, what I’ve learned and retained from camping trip to camping trip (the only time I can actually see the night sky, due to light pollution where I live) greatly lags behind my interest.
Until this year.
This year, while starwatching in the Neapolitan National Parks, Draco jumped out at me BEFORE the Dippers. And then I didn’t just see one, I saw all three without having to process them. (Try Summer Sky Tour for a full tour of what I’m talking about.).
With that trio firmly in mind, identifying neighboring constellations came easily. “Oh, there’s Hercules! There’s Cygnus!” And so on. I actually felt like I was navigating the night sky like Karana in Island of the Blue Dolphins.
Not that I’m ready to canoe on the ocean guided by stars.
At least, not this year…