To See Again The Stars


Milky Way at Tenerife (photo by Carl Jones on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

At the end of The Inferno, set in the year 1300, Dante and his guide Virgil escape from Hell climbing upward to reach the Earth. They’ve almost emerged when Dante looks through the opening ahead and sees the heavens above.

we climbed up, he first and I behind him,
far enough to see, through a round opening,
a few of those fair things the heavens bear.
Then we came forth, to see again the stars.

The Inferno by Dante Alighieri, translation by Robert & Jean Hollander

The heavens are still wondrous but most of us miss it. So much electric light floods the sky that we cannot see the stars. No Milky Way (above), no meteor showers (below).

Timelapse composite, Perseid meteor shower, 13 Aug 2015 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

This seven minute video gives a glimpse of what we’re missing.

To see the stars as Dante saw them we have to visit remote locations where the sky is dark. Click on the Milky Way photo at Tenerife (top) to see the sky in full screen splendor.

“Then we came forth, to see again the stars.”

p.s. This week we learned of an unexpected threat to viewing the stars: Thousands of tiny new satellites will obscure and confuse the astronomers’ view.

(photos from Carl Jones on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals. video by Peaceful Cuisine on YouTube)