Constellations: A Figment of Imagination

Constellations speak of a level of grandeur that is very attractive to us. From the perspective of us, tiny humans living on an ordinary planet in the bigger stage of the infinite universe, seeing patterns in the sky using stars much bigger than our own is a fascinating pastime. Here’s the hard truth: they are not really there. This is not a crazy stance. Most of us (including myself) have always squinted our eyes to see some majestic animal among the stars but failed to see any. In fact, if one resorts to a Google search to see them, there will be a quick realization that it’s just a bunch of quadrangles and lines. Far from an actual animal, they resemble a stick figure at best. It is also comical as to how vague the pattern is. Take, for example, the Ursa Major or the Big Dipper. The pattern doesn’t even match the animal as the design would suffice a four-legged animal with a tail. Bears don’t have tails. Not only could you call it a squirrel, fox, cat, rat, or anything else that has a tail and four legs, but it would be more accurate to call them those compared to a bear.

The nature of the universe also goes against the concept of constellations. It is elementary knowledge that planets orbit around stars. (Not all though; some are space travelers, not bound to any one star and moving through the vast emptiness of space). The star systems themselves orbit the centers of their galaxy. For instance, the solar system journeys through the outskirts of the Milky Way galaxy. Let’s stop there and bring our attention to the main theme here: change. Let us enter a reality where the planets in the solar system move over millions of years. It is reasonable to theorize that humans would also see some creature among the lines they draw between them. Which is exactly what we have done when it comes to constellations. If we speed up time drastically, we would see that the constellations are breaking apart. Through the lens of the entire existence of the universe, these constellations once looked completely different and maybe even did not create any identifiable pattern. The future is the same: many generations from now, that is if humans survive, they will see some different animals among the distant giants. Why wait until then? There already exist simulations that, based on current trajectories of the stars, let us see where these stars were in the past and where they will be in the future. This also means that with the help of a complete database, it is possible to tell the time period one is in using the state of constellations.

In conclusion, both through the lack of decisive features among the lines that intersect with the stars and the moving nature of the entities in space, the constellations do not really exist. The whole affair really shows the incredible ability of the human imagination. Constellations are the result of amazing pattern recognition that we humans have perfected over millions of years through evolution. The extent of the human mind can also be shown by research from The University of Cambridge that claims many humans can read jumbled-up words just by the correct first and last letters. To contribute to the human experience, I would like to now show any fiction writers reading this a way to incorporate this knowledge of constellations into their science fiction: The rapidly rotating outer layer of the time machine Ursala starts to slow down. The ship just made it through a terrible storm in the seas of time and space. The voyagers step out slowly into the world they just landed on. Although this is Earth, there is a desolate silence in the air. No living things are to be seen in this desert where once was the thriving city of New York. One crewmate, the ally from the future, raises his hand to scan the night sky with his watch. The mini-computer scans a spot in the sky and compares it to the saved files. The go-cart-like constellation is found to be a distant relative of the constellation once called the Big Dipper. Within milliseconds after the initial scan, the watch returns the results of its inquiries. Here stand our explorers, in the year 100,000 CE.

Sophomore at Newfield High School in Selden, New York.

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