True Confession of the Stellar Kind

There’s a point in The Serpent and the Rainbow where the author claims that Venus used to be visible to people during the day, we’ve just “forgotten” how to see it. This has stuck with me over the years because on the one hand, it kind of seems plausible to me–that Venus may be bright enough for you to see it in the daytime sky if you know where to look and it’s not near the sun–and on the other hand seems stupid. You don’t forget how to see something. Seeing something is not a matter of remembering to see it.

But I keep reading things about how most people in the US can’t see the Milky Way and soon it will be impossible for everyone in the US to see. And, in fact, just now, I read something about a guy from out east going on vacation to Yellowstone and being blown away by the Milky Way.

And I don’t mean to sound stupid here–like maybe I need to travel to Yellowstone immediately–but do they just mean that they’re able to see it so much clearer in Yellowstone that it’s really stunning and surprising (which I can believe) or do they genuinely not see the Milky Way when they look up in the night sky ever? Because I mean, it’s right there.  I can see how, in cities, you might not be able to make it out, but I live right outside of a big city and I can stand in my front yard and see it on clear nights.

So, now I wonder if you can lose, somehow through forgetting, something like a star.

I don’t know. I find it baffling. Can you forget how to see the Milky Way?

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