Starless Sky

Marco D’Eramo in Sidecar:

If the three wise men were to travel on their camels to the stable in Bethlehem this year, they would almost certainly get lost. Along vast tracts of their route, they would be unable to rely upon their guiding star, for the simple reason that it would not be visible. Baby Jesus would have to forego his gold, frankincense and myrrh.

A paradox characterises our society: we know more about the universe than ever before – we know why the stars shine, how they are born, how they grow old and die, can perceive the swirling motion of galaxies invisible to the naked eye, listen (so to speak) to the sounds of the origin of the universe emitted some 15 billion years ago. Yet for the first time in human history few adults can recognize even the brightest of stars, while most children have never witnessed a starry night. I say most because the majority of the world’s population today – now surpassing 4 billion – live in urban areas, where artificial light obscures the stars from view.

(This is a form of contradiction common to modern life. The moment we are able to satisfy our desire to fly across the world to exotic beaches and get a tan, the hole in the ozone layer makes the ultraviolet rays of the sun dangerous and carcinogenic. As soon as we realize our desire for cleanliness – see my previous article on eliminating odours – water becomes a limited resource, and so on.)

The awesome spectacle of the star-filled sky is quite unknown to most of us today.

More here.