2356: Constellation Monstrosity
Title text: It's rare to get both astronomers and astrologers equally mad at you, but apparently I've messed up both a bunch of star location databases AND the will of the fates.
Constellations in the night sky are formed by pattern-forming various asterisms and other stellar relationships in the night sky. Being rather subjective, different cultures have inculcated differences in their interpretations, some subtle and others less so, for the exact same objective views of the night sky. Even where the same groupings are recognised, distinct cultures can 'see' different forms behind that group of stars. However, observers in the southern hemisphere will see entirely new constellations not visible to those in the northern one, and vice-versa, whilst observing those patterns fully visible to both (on the ecliptic) as inverted and therefore may inspire vastly different conceptualised images or even connectivities. The International Astronomical Union has demarcated the sky into 88 constellations, mostly those known to ancient Greece (catalogued by Ptolemy) plus southern constellations designated by astronomers during the European Renaissance.
Randall has taken one particular zodiac (or at least part of the hellenic one, closely tied to western astrology and still inspiring astronomical naming) and imagined further lines connecting stars to link up four separate constellations, to create a portmanteau constellation with a portmanteau name. In fact, this connection is half true, since Libra used to be the two claws of a much larger Scorpio, the larger constellation having been split in two when the twelve zodiac signs were set as they are now.
The four constellations used here are Scorpio (the scorpion), Libra (the scales), Virgo (the virgin/maiden) and Leo (the lion), sequentially spread across the sky in positions relating to a span of astrological dates running 'backwards' from late November through to late July. The name Randall gave this meta-constellation, however, uses a different order to combine as "Virg(o, l)ibra(, )scorp(io & )leo". Possibly "Scorlibirgoleo", or a similar mash-up with the same source order, did not roll together nicely enough for his liking.
In reality, any apparent proximity of stars on the celestial sphere does not guarantee an actual proximity in the depths of space, either within or between constellations. Knock-on effects from this renaming would not change actual scientific understanding, but it could have a knock-on effect upon star catalogues and databases if this object regrouping forces so many incidental name changes to the current referencing system, which is why the astronomers are upset (as indicated in the title text). Similarly, astrology's conceit based upon four separate 'characters' and life-paths, arising from birth-signs and planetary transits across four distinct areas of the sky, would lose 'precision' if forced to accept a single symbolic area in their stead. Astrologers would be very upset because their work (interpreted charitably) is related to understanding the influences of the stars on life on Earth; they might be concerned that "crossing the stars" could lead to "disaster". It's not clear how Randall hoped to alter the practices of either group with his changes, but he was banned from the IAU for his efforts (not the first time this has happened). Randall previously mentioned being banned from the IAU in 541: TED Talk, but the reason stated in that comic was "redefinition of the 'planet' to include the IAU presidents' mom", so presumably he was reinstated and then banned again.
This is another comic containing red annotations over a complex and established structure. This monstrosity is reminiscent of the infamous 2009 Dutch horror film known as The Human Centipede, in which three humans are bound together such that their digestive systems are connected in sequence. In this image, the head of Virgo appears to be connected to the hindquarters of Leo, and likewise the mouthparts of Scorpio are fixed to the bottom of the "stand" of Libra. Libra's stand appears to go under Virgo's dress; to form a complete "celestial centipede", it should attach to Virgo's hindquarters, but judging by the connection between stars, it probably (mercifully) connects to her foot.
- [Within a frame, a long title is written in a short arc above the drawn elements]
- [Upon a background of astrological imagery merged in accord, basic point-and-line astronomical/astrological representations of Scorpio, Libra, Virgo and Leo are illustrated.]
- [(Scorpio may be slightly rotated/translated for aesthetic reasons.)]
- [Red lines have been added to link stars in adjacent constellations.]
- [ Pi Scorpii(Bottom left connection) is connected to Upsilon Librae]
- [...also Beta Scorpii(Top left connection) may be connected to Theta Librae]
- [ Alpha Librae(Middle connection) is connected to Mu Virginis]
- [ Nu Virginis(Right connection) is connected to Beta Leonis (better known as Denebola)]
- [Caption below the frame]
- I got kicked out of the International Astronomical Union for adding extra lines between the constellations to create a monstrosity.
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