The Wagnitz Constellation – 12/31/2021
The night sky is a wonder. As the night deepens, the sky deepens and you can see farther and farther. It’s as if the night itself lights afire more and more stars as it stretches upward, ever upward. I’ve always been intrigued by the stars; they catch the eye and the imagination. It’s little wonder that practically every culture associates the heavens with God considering its vastness and beauty, its nearness and its distance.
I will admit that, even as a boy scout many, many years ago trying to earn a merit badge, I was only ever really confident of finding the Big Dipper. Not only was it large and visible in every cloudless night sky, but to me it was one of the few constellations that actually looked like what it was supposed to be.
Eventually I added Orion the Hunter to my list as a sure thing. The three stars for the belt and the three stars for the sword were easy enough to find, although the rest of the picture still isn’t clear to me. I always look for it when I make my way to my deer stand. It’s good luck to find it I have convinced myself; even though I have seen it many times on my way to the stand, only to spend a long, fruitless day of waiting for the buck that never came.
I shared my love of stars as with my children, especially on camping trips. Of course, that also exposed my lack of actual star knowledge. It didn’t take the kids long to figure out that Dad’s list of constellations was pretty short. “What other stars do you know Dad?” they asked. I was looking up at the Big Dipper trying to really hard to remember which of its stars aligned to point to the North Star and the Little Dipper. I never could keep that straight. I was about to admit defeat when I noticed to the north a huge “W”. I pointed to it, “There – right there is the Wagnitz Constellation. See the big “W”?” “Really, is it really our constellation?” they asked in amazement. “Yep, there it is,” I replied. Having our very own family constellation was pretty cool. I had no idea whatever else it was; it was a W and that was enough for us.
Of course, in these days of cell phones even I have discovered that there are apps for stargazers. Now I can find everything that in the night sky just by pointing my phone at it, and I can tell you the real names of all of the stars. Those apps are handy. All of my grown children and even I now know that our constellation was catalogued in the second century by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy as Cassiopeia.
My daughter and her baby were over helping bake cookies the Saturday before Christmas this year. Before she left, she gave us our Christmas present early. It is a picture of Cassiopeia in the night sky, but the title below states officially in formal black ink: “The Wagnitz Constellation”. How can you not love a daughter like that?
Deacon Dan Wagnitz