under african skies

March 14, 2007

If I had ever labored under illusions of any real scientific giftedness, I would have probably aspired to be an astronomer. But I had no such illusions and so no such aspirations. I did, however, pursue as much knowledge about astronomy as I could justify in my undergraduate studies.
And so it was with great delight that I finally did something I have been meaning to do since before arriving in this hemisphere several months ago: I studied the proper constellations and then located my first of the constellations visible only from this part of the world: The Southern Cross. It is a small but distinct diamond that can be found closer to the horizon in a line that runs diagonal to Orion’s left shoulder.
I should also confess that I was ignorantly surprised that Orion was easily visible here—I guess since I was so familiar with his distinctive presence, I thought he was a more northern constellation . . .
Also of interest to me here has been the brilliant presence of Venus each clear night—she shines brightly well before other stars show their nocturnal faces. And my youngest pupil has an inexplicable but quite delightful name for this planet; she is always quick to point out “The Fairy Star” when she appears :-)

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