I heard that October the 4th we were meant write something about Stars. Rather than whipping up a piece of fiction, I thought I'd instead write something based more on fact. These snippets are some observations about observation of stars, both here and back home. The picture is of the star chart from that most fantastic of games Star Control 2. The name Snellopy comes from there, his race is the Spathi, and their sphere of influence is marked out in yellow.
The sky in Hanoi is usually pretty sparse - there's plenty of smog, light pollution and other nastiness up there, so it's rare that you'll get many bright twinklies. On quite a few occasions we've been walking and my wife has said "Wow! Look how many stars there are!" and there's been maybe six, maximum. She said it wasn't always like that, back when she was a kid, things were different. There were lots of them. She used to fall asleep on the roof of their house, looking at them, and recalled being groggily carried downstairs in her father's arms.
I've seen lots of stars, not just on charts of various science fiction games when I'm battling aliens. I used to work out bush. When holidays came, we'd team up and drive back to civilization. One time on a drive when it was my turn to sleep, we were going past Brunette Downs on the Barkly Highway. It's a cattle station larger than Northern Ireland, so there's obviously not much light pollution going on. I only woke up after we'd stopped, and so my eyes were perfectly adjusted to the darkness. Looking up, I was amazed by the pinpoints scrawled across the ceiling, far more than I'd ever seen before. I pissed all over my feet as I leaned back in amazement, trying to get it all in.
At Tet a few years ago, I excitedly called my housemate out to have a gander at the skies. Just like me back when I'd been working in the Outback, everyone here had taken advantage of the holiday to get the hell out of Dodge. The roiling tendrils of pollution had relaxed their grasp on Hanoi somewhat, and we could see maybe 20 or 30 stars. But that wasn't what was so amazing to me - happily, I pointed.
"What?" he asked, "It's just Orion."
"I know," I replied, "But this is the first time I've seen the bugger in the flesh (so to speak) and he's not standing on his head. Damn you northern-centric celestial cartographers!"
I just got a necklace made for Tho. Originally it was going to be for her birthday, but just after I had paid the deposit she forbade me from getting anything custom made, so I kept it around for a while longer until a suitable occasion arose. It was of a starred star - A gold star (from the Vietnamese flag) with the Southern Cross (from the Australian flag) picked out on it in four sapphires for the cardinal points and a diamond for the wee one. It looks quite good if I say so myself, and it’ll be perfect to pass down to Madeline too.
We're now looking to head back to Australia soon, and while Tho did see a more representative smattering of stars when we were there for a holiday, I will make sure she gets to see them in all their glory. I didn't spend enough time looking at them before, but after losing them for the past few years, I'll try not to take them for granted in the future. There's probably a lesson there, I'd say, but I’m a slow learner.