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Orion

I have a special attachment to the Orion constellation.

It was in 8th grade when I managed to get access to the British Council Library. At the library, I chanced upon quite a few books on stargazing - you know, big colorful catalogues. I started looking for info about telescopes and other things related to astronomy. Soon after, I found this book called Skywatching by David Levy (he co-discovered the comet which hit Jupiter recently). And in this book I read about Orion - its shape, the suit, club, belt, sword... I was awe-struck at the vividness of thought displayed in its majestic form. I was hooked.

Every night, I used to go up to the terrace and look at the night-sky. I connected random stars with imaginary lines, trying to form a pattern that resembled the shape of the Orion constellation. I failed so miserably. I started to believe that stargazing isn't that easy after all. It was in the summer, a month after I had started looking for Orion, that this fact struck me - Orion must be below the horizon when I looked for it!

So the next morning, I got up at 3:30 A.M. Since I slept alone upstairs, I ran up to the terrace and looked up - and I saw Orion! It was so immediately recognizable! It did not need even the slightest effort to find out the peculiar organization of stars that we now call the Orion constellation. It was like the sky parted and Orion dropped down from the heavens and stuck to the sky for me to find it. It was magical.

I looked straight down to the other side, and saw the Pleiades, a cluster of seven stars (to the naked eye). I looked further and recognized the brightest star - Sirius. I kept wandering from star to star, from one constellation to the other, with the dexterity of a seasoned astronomer. It felt like I had known them for ages - like they were my own friends waiting for me to find them!

I got addicted. I started building telescopes for myself. 10x magnification, 2" objective. I started gazing the night sky with it. During the night I counted stars in Pleiades (I remember more than 30) and mapped the moon. During the day I projected the sun's image and charted the positions of black spots. I read about the Orion nebula (the one that's talked about in the movie Men In Black - but they called it the "galaxy"). It appeared as a fuzzy spot in Orion's sword (below its belt). My telescope made it appear like a slightly bigger fuzzy spot - enough to send me in a frenzy!

It was amazing. I started getting familiar with the night sky, tackling one constellation at a time. By the time I finished with Orion and Vega, the library closed down. Left with no other library, I searched for the book everywhere, but couldn't find it. So I stopped.

Even today, I feel Orion is looking over me from above, smiling, protecting and guiding me through.

great star story

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