Starlight, Stars Not-So-Bright

July 22nd, 2008 Posted in photo, writing

The wonder of the star-filled night sky has inspired mystics, saints, and artists for centuries. The Hebrew psalmist declared that God calls each star by name and they shine out at his bidding, saints like Ignatius Loyola looked at the night sky for hours, and some of Van Gogh’s greatest paintings are full of stars.

But we no longer see the same sky our ancestors did. According to scientists, the millions of lights from our cities, towns, and villages combine to produce “light pollution,” and astronomers find it difficult to find places on Earth unaffected by it. Though satellite telescopes like the Hubble show us the far reaches of space, the fact remains that we here on Earth don’t see the night sky as clearly as people did in the past.

Some of us can get to places where the night sky’s more visible than in cities, like the desert or the North woods or the mountains, but most of us need reminding that that the universe shines with lights that owe nothing to our invention or technology but which exist because God made them for his pleasure, our amazement, and to keep us humble in the face of their beauty. Still, even what most of us can see as we look the heavens at night is enough to astound and humble us, and for that we can be grateful.

(NASA photo below shows the earth’s brightness at night.)

NASA photo of the United States at night

  1. 2 Responses to “Starlight, Stars Not-So-Bright”

  2. By Pat Ostrander on Jul 24, 2008

    Have you had a chance to check out the night sky out here in the suburbs of Seattle? may not be the “North woods” exactly, but it can be pretty good…

  3. By Stephanie (Schmude) Howard on Jul 31, 2008

    On the subject of this post…I studied abroad in Mexico, and I remember one night we were staying on the Gulf coast as we were traveling to see some ruins, and I went out at night to the beach and it was pitch black and the only light was from the moon and the stars reflecting off the Gulf. It’s one of those profound religious experiences, I think, to be able to see all of that unhampered by man. I know I’ll never forget it.

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