And speaking about circles, my voyage also finally comes around full circle: Yesterday evening I once again crossed that invisible line I once defined as the border between contemporary and 'creative' astronomy. 'NGC-Land', here I come. Finding names and imprinting them forever on some galaxy map is a thing of the past now. With full speed ahead I am nearing what in ancient times was called the Known World. For explorers it’s what you might call a return home. For seafarers of old, your homely shores await: Your astrometric computer stops struggling with Gludgou’s, Flyiah Eohn’s, Hyuedau’s or Smojo’s. Where stellar cartography seemingly ended at NGC 3199 way up 'north', it begins anew here and now where The Perseus Arm kisses the Orion Spur. Sorry for that bit of poetry, I couldn’t resist. But the scenery is this: Open clusters, nebulae and dust clouds have their respective catalogue entries listed, you see NGC’s, Col’s and IC’s again. Civilisation, you have me back!
You also realize this when after months out in the deep, deep void you see a familiar shape unfold before the galactic horizon. Switch to infrared and you see mighty Barnard’s Loop. Switch to UV and you see bright young stars greeting you. 'Hey Barny', you think, 'I last saw you five months ago. How you’re doing old pal?'
I like to draw parallels to navigation and astronomy in ancient times. I have quite a few Holo Novels at home and even a few real paperback books. 'Barny’s Loop' is what must have been the beam of a lighthouse in familiar waters: Once you see it you know home is near. It’s a magnet, really. Inevitably it draws you nearer and nearer and in your guts (I already mentioned every explorer has his personal 'guts') you have this warm feeling that it’s a good thing. A welcoming light. Home, at least for a few days, before The Sea calls you again.
It reminds me of some lines from an archaic poem, yet they are still true in the days of the Frame Shift Drive.
'They come forth from the darkness, and their sails
Gleam for a moment only in the blaze,
And eager faces, as the light unveils,
Gaze at the tower, and vanish while they gaze.'
And thus I give myself to my ship and my guts, and my nav courses bring me nearer and nearer home. And the lighthouse comes closer with every step.