Scientists use instruments for various things, and one of the more common visions is that of the astronomer looking to the night sky with his telescope. Stars are just balls of gas and dust. Pretty balls of gas and dust and, when it comes right down to it, so are astronomers and so are we all.

Stars all look very much the same to the unaided eye, but one caught the Astronomer's attention while sorting through high speed film -- colorful, luminous and somehow different from all the others he'd seen.

Any astronomer can use a telescope, and most of them do, but our Astronomer went a different way: instead of just watching and measuring, he began talking with the Star in the early evenings. Their conversations ranged widely over topics from interstellar gas spectroscopy to politics, transport, love and the nature of existence. As their conversations progressed the Astronomer learned a lot about the Star, and our Star learned quite a bit about the Astronomer. More similar than either wanted to admit, they both spent their evenings in the cold and the dark, working more than they should trying to fill a void they had both been ignoring. Without even thinking about it, they were both falling in love, albeit at a distance best measured in large and obscure units. It happens. Even with stars.

Now:

Love can't do everything, despite what the poets say. It's not a matter of power, it's simply that Union regulations forbid anyone from doing all the work. Take it up with, well, whoever you Believe in. Love does get around though, and can get quite a lot done if given the assignment. Like sending a plane ticket to a Star. Delta gets you there, and I suppose can get you back. I've seen them do it, and everyone knows all the Stars fly first class ...

Having studied each other in some detail, and talked for so long, both the Astronomer and the Star knew what to expect. They just didn't expect so much of it ... So fundamentally the same, both balls of gas and dust animated by a force neither understood. So fundamentally different as to defy description. They found themselves bound by the simple calculus of Love, the usual and customary addition of one and one to get some huge floating point value no one understands but poets. And Astronomers. And Stars, of course.

Eventually, though, the Star had to return home. She was part of an existing constellation, and no matter how cold and dusty a place it might be, she was bound by duty to live, at least for a while, in the dark, empty sky. The Astronomer was heartbroken, to no one's surprise, and again returned to the night sky looking at the stars, and wondering about his Star. Would she walk with him again in the beautiful daylight?

Only time will tell, he surmised, and Time being much like Love, doesn't say much. It's not that he doesn't know, it's just not his job. The Union, again. We leave our tale with the Astronomer watching from a distance, as most astronomers do, with a Star hopefully watching back, and occasionally talking in the early evening. Stars belong in the night sky. Any fool can tell you that. It takes a far wiser man to see that they belong where they are happiest.

Copyright 2007 Greg Richter / IFR Music