There they were: Orion’s Belt, the Big Dipper, and the moon. I gazed up at the stars in awe, almost unaware of the freezing snow beneath me or of the steam that appeared with every breath. Each twinkling, gleaming gem confused yet excited me. I had only just learned the word “constellation,” but I was already beyond intrigued. My red sled accompanied me, regardless of the weather, in trekking through the snow as far as I could, far from bright street lamps and warm lights that streamed from the windows of houses. The same pictures appeared in the sky night after night, though they shifted slowly. And the moon, my favorite night light, grew and shrank like my chest did with each breath. He always seemed to have a smile on his face and I could never help but flash my big, partially-toothless grin back at him.
The Hayden Planetarium used to be my favorite place. In my humble, six-year-old opinion, it was the best building in New York City. Every time I waited on line for the showing of “Dark Universe,” my heart raced. By the time I could finally take my seat inside the great big dome, I was giddy. The lights dimmed, the stars appeared, and the narrated recording took us back in time and through our galaxy. “Galaxy.” One of my favorite words. But the show was over all too soon, and I quickly found myself back on the bustling streets of Manhattan. At night, the sky was full of skyscrapers, and the streets were so bright that there was barely a difference between night and day.
When I moved out of The Big Apple and into the suburb of Scarsdale, I discovered the stars with my own eyes. They weren’t a projection, but rather real balls of fire many light years away. I could stare into space a limitless number of times and for much longer than the twenty minute movie showing. Although I’d always known that New York was the greatest city on Earth, I began to acknowledge one of its greatest shortcomings: its stars have gone extinct.