Anyone who stargazes is sure to feel a pang of regret as one of our most familiar constellations begins to slip away from view each Spring. Lower and lower in the Eastern sky, the great sky-spanning constellation, The Blob, oozes towards the Sun, and so is not visible at night.
Legend has it that The Blob was formed by Icarus and Daedalus, who foolishly flew so high into the air that the jello they were eating melted under the heat of the sun, and they let the dessert fall from their dishes. The gooey mass spread across the sky, devouring all the small flying creatures. The Greeks used this story to explain why summer birds and insects disappear in the winter, when The Blob slides across the night sky. Only the arrival of the Summer Sun evaporates The Blob, so that the bobolinks and honeybees can return safely.
The jaws of The Blob are held open by the trio of stars Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnirtak, while M42, the G.O. Nebula forms the drool of the great beast, hence being categorized as a "Messier" object. (Stars are sharper images in a view through the telescope, less messy, so to speak, and so are catalogued differently.)
The triangle deep inside the constellation, anchored by bright star Betelgeuse, represents the lost city of Atlantis, which the mythical Blob ate in anger when the Altanteans tried to invent nuclear fusion in defiance of the gods. Far from turning the rampaging Blob into harmless water molecules, their foolishness cost them their entire city.
During the summer months, we will all miss The Blob, but know that though Winter brings chilly weather and fallen leaves, it will also occasionally allow us to remember the folly of fusion reactors and gelatin desserts.
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