So I’m driving to work this morning from Rehoboth Beach and my radio is telling me things. Did you know that the nursery rhyme “Hey diddle diddle…” refers to the spring constellations? Of course you did! But I didn’t. Turns out that this, which I always thought was just nonsense:
Hey, diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such sport.
And the dish ran away with the spoon.
is a specific reference to the stars overhead in April and May, and is supposed to indicate planting time in the spring, or something. The cow is a reference to the constellation Taurus, and the New Moon of May is said to be in the sign of Taurus. So the cow jumps over the Moon. The Cat is a reference to Leo the Lion, which is chasing the little dog, Canis Minor (the “smaller dog” constellation), to the west and over the horizon. The fiddle is a reference to the lyre, or stringed instrument, which is overhead as the constellation Lyra, containing the bright star Vega. The dish and the spoon are the Milky Way and the Big Dipper. In May, Cygnus just starts to rise up in the northeast. Cygnus appears as though flying along the Milky Way, which is as flat around the horizon as it can get this month, like a plate, or a dish, and it seems to have “run away” from view. And while this is occurring, the Big Dipper, is straight up overhead: The dish runs away with the spoon!
Aside from this, my entire knowledge of the constellations I learned from The Simpsons.
Homer: “Well, there’s Jerry the Cowboy, and that big dipper looking thing? Alan . . . the Cowboy.”