The Second Star to the Right [Theory]
Have you ever wondered which star is the second star to the right?
The concept first appeared in the 1904 play titled Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, by Scottish writer, J.M. Barrie. In the play, the “Second Star to the Right” leads to the entrance of Neverland, Peter Pan’s home where kids never grow up. Peter tells Wendy the way to Neverland is “second to the right, and straight on till morning” pointing at two bright stars in the sky.
My first question is, to the right of what? There are thousands of shining dots out there, you’ll have to be more specific, Peter.
Barrie later wrote that Neverland is near the “stars of the milky way” and it is reached “always at the time of sunrise”.
Out my window one night, I noticed two bright stars shining in the sky on the left of the moon. I pulled up my Skyview app that allows you to identify the stars, astrological signs, planets, and space stations. The two stars were Saturn and Jupiter. Following the horizon line, the planets curve west on a downward right path across the sky as each month passes. Both planets pass the moon by Fall.
Following Barrie’s clue, I wondered where the Milky Way would be seen at the time he wrote about the Second Star to the Right.
The Milky Way is located in the constellation Sagittarius. According to DarkSiteFinder, this is the brightest part of the Milky Way. Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, prominent in the night sky during this time of the year. The Milky Way is only visible for half the year, but the best viewing time is in the summer because it can be seen the majority of the night.
Obviously, Barrie lived in on the other side of the world from my viewing point in Southern California. So, there is the location factor to consider.
Barrie was living in London when Peter Pan was written and released. Southern California and England are in the same hemisphere with summer months in similar climate cycles. The sun is closer and hotter from June to August. Meaning the Milky Way would be following the path around the skyline rotation and can be seen around the same time. Theoretically, Barrie would see the sky similarly.
This play was also written over a century ago. In order to understand where the planets were in the sky in early 1900s London, I found a planetary chart from Astro Seek for the planet appearances throughout the year.
The Sagittarius and Capricorn signs share 3 planets strung next to each other in the sky. Capricorn signs are born from Nov 22 — Dec 21. According to a NASA Solar System Exploration finding for December planet patterns, December starts off with a lovely string of pearls: Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, and the moon. In the middle of December, Venus passes Saturn rising higher in the sky each day, leaving Saturn and Jupiter near the horizon. Best seen just before sunrise. Barrie’s final clue from Peter Pan to Wendy.
Through research, analysis, and speculation, I believe the stars depicted in the play and film are none other than Jupiter and Saturn. The second to the right is Saturn. J.M Barrie sat in his study staring at the night sky and wrote that Saturn and Jupiter stood at the ingress of the fantastical Neverland where Peter Pan and the Lost Boys met mermaids, battled pirates, and never grew old.
TL;DR HYPOTHESIS: Saturn is the second star to the right referenced in the story of Peter Pan.
This theory assumes that J.M. Barrie was referring to real stars in his story and should not be taken too seriously because Peter Pan was a fictional character described as saying “anything that came into his head.”
Do you have a different theory? Comment below!