Shifting Perspectives: Orion is Upside Down!

What do you see when you look up at the stars?

A chance remark I made the other day in response to Frank Prem’s illustrated poem, Southern Stars for Christmas, raised a question or two about what we see in our night sky, depending upon where we are in the world. If you follow the link you’ll see the thread, and as a special bonus, you’ll get to read Frank’s poem and see his southern star pics.

We can all see some of the same stars

If you live in the northern hemisphere, you can see all of the constellations in the northern part of the sky and some of what is visible from the southern hemisphere. As you travel downward towards the equator, you’ll be able to see more of the sky from the southern hemisphere’s perspective, while also losing more of what you’d normally see in the northern hemisphere. And vice versa, of course.

There are some stars that you can only see from one hemisphere, which is why if you’re in the North, you’re so familiar with the Polaris (the North Star) and conversely, if you’re in the South, you know the Southern Cross.

But some constellations, like Orion, look different!

Coming originally from the northern hemisphere, I’d say Orion is upside down here in the South, but maybe it’s the other way around. I guess it depends on what you’re used to. Either way, you can still make a huntsman out of the two-dimensional pattern of distant stars, which form the constellation.

A new night sky can be a little disorienting

I remember, not long after first moving to South Africa, getting up in the middle of the night and looking up at this strange, unfamiliar sky. It was a clear night and here was very little light pollution compared to what I was used to back in the well-lit city of Liverpool. The huge velvet sky, pin-pricked  with the brightest, densest stars I’d ever seen, was magical. And in that part-way point of being half asleep and properly awake, when all around me was silence, I thought for a moment that I’d been transported to a completely different planet.

We’re all looking at the same moon…

…but we might not be seeing the same part of her.
Click here for the ‘sciency’ bit.

In the northern hemisphere you have the famous Man in the Moon. But for me, here in the South, one of the loveliest sights is of the African moon lying on her back. I think of Karen Blixen’s words every time I see our beautiful moon reclining languidly in our night-time sky.

The African moon has influenced my writing. Just last week, when I wrote Home for the Holidays in response to Sadje‘s What Do You See? prompt, our lovely moon popped up in the second verse. She also puts in an appearance in Trance, one of the lyrical pieces from my San Man series written earlier this year. Moving hemispheres, countries and cultures has had an increasing impact on my writing journey and now, ten years on, the British author has become a South African one, and my soon-to-be-released novel, rather then being set in England, is set in my adopted country.

Frank suggested I post some pictures of my African sky at night. Unfortunately there’s been a lot of high cloud about in the past week, but if I eventually get some good ones, I’ll post them to my Instagram feed on the sidebar.

What do you see when you look up at the stars?

35 thoughts on “Shifting Perspectives: Orion is Upside Down!

  1. Quite an interesting subject! I love stargazing and how the stars just shine through and through. It’s also fascinating to think that we’re seeing light that the star emitted years ago, it’s almost like staring into the past.
    Based on your post, I see Orion the right side up, we can’t see a lot of the stars where I live but the major constellations like The Big Dipper, Pisces and Orion are more or less always present. Lovely write! I enjoyed the poem too!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Reblogged this on Frank Prem Poetry and commented:
    Chris Hall has been true to her word and written a lovely blog post to speak of her South African night sky and the differences between Southern and Northern hemisphere star visibility and constellation arrangement. Particularly Orion the Hunter.

    It came as something of a shock to me to contemplate the stars being differently oriented, even when visible in both hemispheres. I’d never considered it and on my one visit to the Northern, many years (and moons) ago I had taken no notice whatever. The callowness of youth!

    Pop over to Chris’ site and have a read. Do feel welcome to write your own perspective and link back so we can all share. It’s a wonderful topic, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful, Chris. You’ll see I’ve reblogged over to my place. Hope we get a few more bloggers contemplating their stars and sharing perspectives.

    I’ve never seen the man in the moon and thought it just a part of general nonsense. How about that!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Here was me thinking you could see him all year around in the UK. Maybe it’s because I lived in the NW for so long, where it’s considerably cloudier than in Yorkshire. Adding to our collective knowledge of the night sky, Gary. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is fascinating! I’ve gotten behind on my blog reading, but I made a mental note to go back and read through your post. I wouldn’t have thought about the stars looking different in the Southern Hemisphere but it totally makes sense. I tried to find photos of the southern lights for when Foster and Panda “went” to Patagonia but pretty much all I could find were the northern lights. Of course since I’m always so geographically accurate with my photos(🤣) I decided to take that part out of the story😋🐱🐼

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been trying to take a picture of the night sky here, but even though it’s been clear the last two nights, the phone on my camera isn’t good enough. Maybe we all need visit the Sutherland Observatory here!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wouldn’t that be so cool! I took an astronomy class in college and went on field trips at night with telescopes. My favorite thing was seeing the rings around Saturn. It’s like you know they’re there, because you learned it in school, but seeing them through the telescope was amazing!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I was lucky enough to see Saturn’s rings at the Mamalluca Observatory in Chile. Truly amazing. I remember the taxi driver who took us there told us he had a naughty little dog called Osama Bin! Funny what you remember.

          Liked by 1 person

    • I actually saw it from the kitchen window! Two bright stars, just above the horizon a little after sunset, which happens quite quickly here. I should really have made the effort to go down nearer the beach.

      Liked by 1 person

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