Research continuesFebruary 20, 2009
I’m going to have a TON of research to do on this show before starting the script, and it’s actually a little intimidating.
There’s going to be lots of constellations in this program, and I want to hightlight them visually as well as historically, but I’m struggling to break out of “list” mode—I don’t want the show to just be a monotonous list of the constellations and their features. I’ve tried that, and the results were embarassing.
A big aspect of these constellation featurettes in the show will be whether they’re an ancient or modern constellation. The majority of the 88 official constellations we have today come from two sources: The Almagest, by Ptolemy, circa 2nd Century; and Uranometria, by Johann Bayer, published in 1603. Later, in the 1760s, a book by a French astronomer named Nicolas Louis de Lacaille added a handful of new southerly constellations.
And yes, the constellations set up by Bayer in the early 1600s are considered “modern.” Modern-er than the 2nd Century, at least.
Ptolemy’s list contains most of what people in the Northern Hemisphere think of as the “normal” constellations—Ursa Major, Orion, the Zodiac, etc. They’re mostly Greek and Babylonian in origin, and typically have mythological stories surrounding them.
The newer images are distinctly more modern, and contain things like a microscope (Microscopium), a furnace (Fornax), a clock (Horologium), an easel (Pictor), etc. They’re also mostly southish patterns; those lazy Greeks and Babylonians couldn’t be expected to travel so far south of the Equator just to see the stars over the far side of the world now, could they? But by the 1600s colonization had worked its way into the southern latitudes, and knowing the stars and constellations definitely helps sailors find their way around.
Anyway, I want to keep away from dry, boring, information-overload as much as possible in this script, so I’m kicking around some gimmicky ideas that may sort of bring it all together into more of an experience and less of a lecture. I’ll start outlining a script next week, and start in on a first draft as soon as I’m comfortable with the flow.