How The New Astronomy Obscured The Traditional Night Sky

Holly Haworth at Lapham’s Quarterly:

This expungement was part of a global shift in the way the night sky would come to be viewed, not as particular to the individual cultures in whose lives they played both practical and mythical parts but rather, as the historian Elizabeth Green Musselman writes, a “celestial blanket [that] covered the globe in one fabric.” The blanket of stars heralded “a one-world empire,” and those with the telescopes named each point of light and the constellations they formed when strung together, overlaying the vast kaleidoscope of names and stories that the heavenly bodies held for peoples in every tiny portion of the globe. The International Astronomical Union would eventually standardize the constellations with official names in order to avoid what one modern astronomer called “a chaotic situation.”

The British made a striking observation about the bush people: their eyes, wrote one colonist, were “little inferior in optical power to small telescopes.” Another said of them that “the eye operates with a precision and force, which a person who has never witnessed the like would scarcely be disposed to credit…They will often discern with distinctness what others require a telescope to distinguish.”

more here.