The Brunching Shuttlecocks Ratings

A premier constellation. Easy to find -- at least in the Northern Hemisphere in winter -- actually looks vaguely like what it's supposed to look like, and doesn't have all the cultural baggage associated with the various Zodiac signs. He has a dog and a club and no visible head. What could be more manly than that? B+

The Ursas
First off, I think we've got a name problem here. "Ursa Minor" and "Ursa Major" sound like silent film stars of Ukrainian heritage, and "The Big Bear and the Little Bear" sounds like a heartwarming Disney feature. I suggest we change it to "Ursa Awesome" and "Ursa Funky." Anyhow, The Flying Ursas are better known as "The Big and Little Dippers Plus Some Other Stars." (They're known as "The Ploughs" in the UK, but that's just because the Brits love words with letters you don't pronounce.) Everyone digs on the Dippers, because everyone can find them. Who am I to argue? A

Pegasus, the powerful winged horse of legend, is represented in the night sky by a lopsided boxy shape. It kind of makes you lose your faith in the stories where the gods reward the noble and heroic by putting their images into the heavens. It sounds more to me like the gods had a few stars they didn't know what to do with, and a flying horse they figured deserved some sort of recognition, and so they kludged it. D

Yet another hunter, not nearly as cool as Orion. The main reason I even mention him is to bring attention to the fact that Bootes was proud owner of the "Silliest Name for a Celestial Body" award, right up until they discovered the Oort Cloud in 1950. Word has it that Booteans are still steamed over that one, and there's a growing movement to change the constellation's name to "Bunsy-Wunsy Monchichi" in hopes of winning it back. C-

The Southern Cross
Pragmatism in action; it's southern, it's a cross, why bother trying to convince people it's actually the picture of a huge celestial bison or something? Of course, if we applied this to the entire sky, we'd end up with constellations like "The Great Big Glob of Stars," "The Not Quite So Big Glob of Stars" and "That Star Glob Next To That Other Star Glob." But as an exception, the candor is refreshing. B-

Yes, there's a constellation named Norma. I didn't even know this until I did some fact-checking in an effort to keep readers from writing me to say things like "For your information, there is no such thing as 'Pelvis Minor.'" The back-story here is that a French guy named Nicolas Louis de Lacaille noticed that the Southern Hemisphere was severely lacking in constellation names. Unfortunately, Nicolas wasn't the most visionary guy in the world, and rather than giving the his new constellations properly cool names like "Borgo, Mighty God of Cheese," he named most of them after devices like "The Clock" and "The Air Pump," thus turning the night sky over Australia into a scientific equipment catalog. "Norma," then, means "The Level." Pretty lame. D-

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