Quote of the Day – The Stars and the Sky

 

Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? (Job, 38:31-34) KJV

If the weather is clear, go outside tonight.  Look up at the night sky.  What can you see?

Do you live in or near a city?  You should be able to pick out the major stars of Orion, and – depending on the time – the Big Dipper.  The planets – if you know where they are – are visible as spots in the sky.  That is about it.

If you have sharp eyes, you might be able to find some lesser constellations – Polaris and the guard stars at the ends of the Little Dipper; the bright stars in Gemini or maybe Cassiopeia and Cephus; possibly Cygnus, the Northern Cross.  The Milky Way?  Forget about it.

Even in a rural area, you see many fewer stars than someone who lived in Rome or Jerusalem during the life of Christ – or even 250 years ago.  As late as the 1700s big observatories were located inside major cities like London and Paris.

The culprit is progress – electricity.  There are so many lights on at night that they block out the stars.  Not just in the city, but dozens of miles away.  Yet city lights, with their ability to hide the glories of the heavens lack the strength to truly illuminate.  The dark is still there.

Electricity, like natural gas heating and cooking or modern water and sewer systems, make our lives better in many ways.  Huddling around a campfire for warmth and light is romantic only as long as it is optional.

Modern conveniences create an odd paradox, though.  We have more power and are more widely traveled than the ancients, but our horizons are much, much nearer.  They might have traveled only fifty miles from home during a lifetime, but they could see the heavens – immeasurably far away.  They saw how a small part of the universe Earth was.

We, on the other hand, think nothing of driving 1000 miles on a vacation.  But when we look up? The stars – except for a few dozen – are gone.  The bowl of the sky has shrunk.  Lights from aircraft only a few miles up define our boundaries.

Cuddled in a womb of nightglow, we are cut off from the majesty of the heavens.  Living in a smaller universe than our ancestors, we imagine that it is we that have grown larger.   Today we command the thunderbolts of Jupiter, the speed of Mercury; so many act as if we have become gods.  The true God is forgotten.

Are you falling into that trap? On the next clear weekend take a long drive out into the country, away from the city.  Find a spot away from manmade lights.  Let twilight come, and watch the sky – and remember Him that made that the glory.

Published in Group Writing
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  1. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    The night sky I saw while backpacking in the Sierra Nevada in the late 60s and early 70s was breath taking.  One year there was a full moon; spectacular!

    • #1
  2. She Member
    She
    @She

    All very true.  The sky out where I live is pretty dark, and there are nights when the stars are amazing.  I have the Star Walk app on my phone that’s helpful in orienting me and identifying them.  (I know I should just put the phone down and look, but –as with the Merlin app which identifies bird calls, it’s a great tool for learning and improving my grasp of what I’m experiencing, and I can build on what I know.

    • #2
  3. Lunchbox Gerald Coolidge
    Lunchbox Gerald
    @Jose

    If I ever buy a new home during this lifetime I have two requirements:

    1. The ability to fire a rifle safely from my back yard.
    2. To be able to see the Milky Way on a moonless night.
    • #3
  4. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Lunchbox Gerald (View Comment):

    If I ever buy a new home during this lifetime I have two requirements:

    1. The ability to fire a rifle safely from my back yard.
    2. To be able to see the Milky Way on a moonless night.

    Requirement 1 will be a lot easier to meet than requirement 2. At least in the US.

    • #4
  5. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    There are “darkness oases” for this very reason here in Germany. Light pollution is certainly making it more difficult for amateur astronomers to make contributions to their field.

    • #5
  6. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    A couple relevant photos here:

    https://ricochet.com/1555057/the-oregon-outback-dark-sky-sanctuary/

    • #6
  7. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    “Let man then contemplate the whole of nature in her full and lofty majesty, let him turn his gaze away from the lowly objects around him; let him behold the dazzling light set like an eternal lamp to light up the universe, let him see the earth as a mere speck compared to the vast orbit described by this star, and let him marvel at finding this vast orbit itself to be no more than the tiniest point compared to that described by the stars revolving in the firmament. But if our eyes stop there, let our imagination proceed further; it will grow weary of conceiving things before nature tires of producing them. The whole visible world is only an imperceptible dot in nature’s ample bosom. No idea comes near it; it is no good inflating our conceptions beyond imaginable space, we only bring forth atoms compared to the reality of things. Nature is an infinite sphere whose centre is everywhere and circumference is nowhere. In short it is the greatest perceptible mark of God’s omnipotence that our imagination should lose itself in that thought.”

    Blaise Pascal

    • #7
  8. GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms Reagan
    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms
    @GLDIII

    Three times I have taken a group of 12 boys to the Rockies front range to Philmont the BSA Scout camp in Cimarron NM. As the resident “Rocket Engineer” I make it a point on the second or third day, when I know the aches are setting in to bring them all to one of the many meadows at the 8 to 9000 ft elevation, lie on our backs and show them the major constellations, the visible planets, and yes the Milky Way.

    I use a laser pointer so they can follow which stars define a given constellation. On occasion it has led to some interesting conversations on how did they get a mental image of something from a cluster of stars. I do mention that there was no TV back then, and they had good imaginations.

    I usually have no problem getting them to stay for about an hour, and typically can point out up to a dozen satellites. The little speed racers that one can follow from horizon to horizon, both the polar orbits and the equatorial orbits.

    It has been about a dozen years since I have done this and I still occasionally meet up with the boys via our church community, interestingly a number of them mention how fun that experience was and note how difficult it is to see a sky that clear.

    It is rewarding to plant those little seeds.

    • #8
  9. Steve Fast Member
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    I used to go to the Okie-Tex Star Party at Kenton, Okla. It was so dark there that the Milky Way cast shadows on the ground.

    • #9
  10. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Hve loved campouts up high out west to see a sky full of stars! 

     

    • #10
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