Whenever I look up at the dark night sky and find the three stars in that nearly perfect straight line, and the four stars that form two huge quadrangles with the belt, my mind always drifts back to that cold night, in that small county that I call my hometown; and it drifts once more to that breezy evening, in the school that I call my alma mater.
Orion is the first constellation I managed to recognise, simply because it is bright enough and also easy to locate. The three stars on the hunter’s belt serve as the landmark, and once you see them, you get Orion. I got it at home when I was 11 years old, and my interest in stars lasted for a few months before it slowly died due to the constantly worsening light pollution.
Before I joined the Astronomy Society of Chung Cheng High School (Main), I could recognise three constellations: Orion, Leo and Scorpio. They are huge constellations with easily visible stars that can be connected to form beautiful shapes. Somehow I knew about Antares, the heart of the scorpion, too; and knowing that this heart is constantly aimed at by the arrow tip of Sagittarius, the half-horse, half-human creature, I learnt to locate Sagittarius too.
On the first evening after I joined the Astronomy Society, I saw Orion, the dominant figure in the sky. I also learnt that the three stars mean more than a belt. They even point to Sirius, the brightest star in Canis Major, one of the hunter’s two loyal companions, and to Aldebaran, the alpha star in Taurus, the hunter’s eternal target in the sky.
And if you extend the shoulders of the hunter to the left you can find Procyon, the alpha star of Canis Minor, the smaller dog following the hunter. The star on the hunter’s left shoulder, Betelgeuse, also the alpha (though only the second brightest) star of Orion, together with Procyon and Sirius, forms the Winter Triangle.
I read about this fascinating triangle on books before, but it was my first time connecting the three stars and looking at the triangle. We were lucky that the first evening in the Society was a clear, cool night. The sky displayed the full panaroma of all these blinking stars and shining planets above me, and for the first time I felt overwhelmed at the sight.
This sight took away my breath. I started to imagine what the Earth would look like if there were some aliens looking at us from some lightyears away. I started to feel the moving of our planet through the emptiness in the space. I started to visualise the brevity of our life and the meaninglessness of our everyday trouble. I started to see clearly the tininess of the space we have occupied and the ridiculousness of human beings fighting over territories.
I was amazed and scared at the same time.
The majestic constellation, Orion, and the Winter Triangle always remind me of the feeling and thoughts on that breezy evening. They are kind of the dearest friends to me because, after all, we are some remnants of ancient stars. We are stellar dusts, too.