66: Abusive Astronomy
Title text: Medium: Pencil on paper
A constellation (more formally known as an asterism) is a pattern of stars which form some sort of perceived shape in the night sky. Different cultures have created different patterns from the same groups of stars going back at least as far as the Babylonians. The Pleiades, Orion's belt and the Big Dipper are among the most common constellations that we recognise today and are among the first taught to people with an interest in astronomy. The Big Dipper can be used to help find the north pole star Polaris and this can be a useful aid to night time navigation.
During planetarium tours, the tour guide will point out popular constellations and stars, sometimes they will ask a question to get the audience involved in the presentation. Usually these people are big on showing the wonder of the galaxy and are all smiles, but people have bad days. Randall might also be reflecting on the fact that the grouping and naming of constellations varies from culture to culture and how easy it is for an expert to fail to realise that what is basic knowledge to them might be completely new to someone else.
I don't think the above is quite it. When astronomers are showing stars to people, there will frequently be someone who points to the Pleiades and says, "There's the Big Dipper!" This gets frustrating about the 100th time that you encounter this error. So, this comic shows someone releasing their frustration on the mis-informed public by pointing out that what they just pointed at is actually the Pleiades. Then, pointing out that you can always locate the Pleiades by following the line of the stars in the belt of Orion. Then, pointing out the REAL Big Dipper.
- Identifying star clusters:
- [Image of a star cluster.]
- This is the Pleiades, asshole.
- Orion's Belt:
- [Image of Orion's Belt.]
- Only a moron couldn't find it.
- This is the Big Dipper:
- [Image of the Big Dipper.]
- What the hell is wrong with you?