Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - 4

SPECTRUM by Peter Tyson
Are You Sirius?
WHIMSY HAS LONG HELD an honored place in astronomy. We can
thank ancient civilizations for setting the stage, placing all those
fantastical creatures and heroes in the sky as they did. Many of
them remain up there to this day, from Hydra to Hercules to the
ultimate in whimsical, the Unicorn (though Monoceros was a
17th-century addition).
Even for active stargazers who use it all the time, the constellation menagerie
is extravagant (and if you can see a Charioteer in the five-sided Auriga, more
power to you). But imagine for a moment you knew nothing about astronomical
history and were shown the chart of Orion and Taurus on page 59 and were
told you could see that pair in the night sky right now. You could be forgiven for
thinking, A beefy guy with a club attacking a steer? It's a bunch of stars, friend!
Of course, these figures - as for Ptolemy and other early astronomers who
placed them there - serve a purpose for us: They help create order out of chaos.
And as S&T readers well know, once you see certain of these figures overhead,
you can't unsee them, such as the Teapot asterism in Sagittarius.
Sky & Telescope has long embraced our field's fanciful side, and this issue
showcases that aspect. You can find it in titles, like " Bowling for Borrelly " (page
48) or " The Taming of the Slew " (page 72). You can recognize it in the writing,
as when Ken Hewitt-White talks in
his column about leaping minnows and
" fraudulent fish " (page 54). We even pull
out the stops on the frolicsome front and
offer a scavenger hunt (page 20).
Yet the whimsy is just a veneer.
pEdward Lear illustrations of " The Owl
and the Pussycat " and a scarlet macaw
Beneath the lighthearted surface of
each of these pieces you'll find the usual
authority, the richness of scientific and
historical detail, the best filters or lenses
to use, the latest findings astronomers or
the authors themselves have made. Our writers take their passion very seriously,
even as they don't take themselves too seriously. It's a perfect balance: If it were
all whimsy, it would be fluff; if it were all sober, it would be dry.
I'm reminded of the work of the 19th-century English artist and writer
Edward Lear, whose work exemplifies this mix of the playful and the deeply
serious. Lear is celebrated equally for his nonsense verse and drawings, and
his exquisitely rendered illustrations of birds and other animals (see images
above). Around the holiday season, and especially in these
unsettled times, we can benefit from a healthy dose of
both approaches.
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licensing): Sky & Telescope, One Alewife Center,
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electronic images are welcome, but a stamped,
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4
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Sky & Telescope - January 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky & Telescope - January 2022

Contents
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - Cover1
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - Cover2
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - 1
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - Contents
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - 3
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - 4
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - 5
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - 6
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - 7
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - 8
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Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - Cover3
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - Cover4
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - SA1
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Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - SA3
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Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - SA5
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