Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Learning From the Stars

A few summers ago when our family was all in the same place at the same time (which gets rarer as they get older), we began a discussion about the significance of stars. We discovered that rather than being just a bunch of cute, twinkling lights, they had significance in a physical and philosophical way.

After discussing the different types of stars and galaxies, we retired to the front lawn, where we laid on our backs upon quilts, looking up at the evening stars. On the nearby road, several cars honked at the sight of this extended family of 10, ranging from the newest child of our daughter, to our twenty-something sons, myself (who is ageless) and 60 year old "Papa," laying face to the sky, on the lawn. I'm sure they might have thought it was a strange ritual we were participating in.

The stars are bodies of light that appear at night in cloudless skies. They are fixed, or planetary, however, planets revolve around the sun and do not twinkle, as do the stars. Each month of the year, a different "house" or section of stars appear in the sky, identified by ancient names, such as Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, and others. These names were formed when astrologers drew imaginary lines between certain stars to form figures of men, beasts, and objects.

Throughout the ages, people of different cultures, though they did not know each other, often created the same pictures from the stars and identified them by the same names.

Stars follow an orbit and are always in the same relationship in placement and distance, to one another, which makes each house easily identifiable as the seasons change. Stars are worlds unto themselves containing galaxies within galaxies, exhibiting the astonishing world of space.

The pole star is a bright star that appears in the tail of Ursa minor, commonly known as "The Bear."

Wandering Stars are a different type of star that do not follow a fixed pattern. They have no fixed path and lead into darkness.

Twin Stars revolve around each other, and appear as one when either is behind the other, ora as a very bright light when beside one another.

The Morning Star is not a star, but the planet Venus. It is often called "The Star of Hope," because it is the last bright light before the sun rises, symbollic of hope. which ushers in the greater light.

Symbolism and allegory are legion in the study of the stars. My first observation is of the importance of early training by faithful mothers and fathers who care about what happens to their children; parents who will tirelessly direct their children and train them, eventually setting them on a fixed course of good habits, good manners and sensibility in decisions.

Another observation is that, while it is amusing to follow a wandering star for a season, fruitless pursuits will lead to ruin. Observing the wandering stars can be of value, though, and also stimulate creativity, as long as it is tempered by good direction and values.

The Morning Star is the star that everyone can hope to be one day: that hopefulness and optimism that it is sometimes darkest before the dawn; that when plans and opportunities are crushed, disappointment can be used as a springboard for success. Your (always) brilliant comments are welcome.

In the 19th century, families often amused themselves in the evenings with telescopes, observing these heavenly objects. Conservatories or upper rooms containing special porches for star gazing, can be seen in some historical homes around the nation.

painting: Evening Serenity by Jim Hansel


Anonymous said...

Jay Ryan sends a free email newsletter on astronomy and has a website as well:

This is the Classical Astronomy Update, an email newsletter especially for Christian homeschool families (though everyone is welcome!) Please feel free to share this with any interested friends.

If you would like to SUBSCRIBE to the Update, or if you wish to UNSUBSCRIBE from the list, please visit the Classical Astronomy Update Info Page -- or send an email to -- .

DonnaB said...

I learned something today...thank you!

Lisa said...

There is a very interesting book online that deals with the ancient star names and the story that the pictures really tell -- the story of the gospel! Scripture says that God gave each star a name. It's facinating to discover those names from ancient records.

I hope this link works for you:

Witness of the Stars by E.W. Bullinger

Lydia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lydia said...

regarding the email queries about the little painting: it was done on a block of shaped wood, with bevelled edges, using acryllic paints.

Anonymous said...

Well done on a nice blog Lady Lydia. I was searching for information on astronomy for kids and came across your post this post - not quite what I was looking for related to astronomy for kids but very interesting all the same!

Well, it's a new year - in fact it's almost the Chinese New Year. I'm still putting together astronomy lesson plans for the first and second semesters. This year the budget allows us to purchase a new telescope for the science group. That's great so we're still juggling the numbers how to get best bang for the buck! Not the 'big bang' you understand LOL. I'm coming down on the side of the Meade LX200GPS 12" Schmidt-Cassegrain. Let's wait and see.

If you do have a moment, please take a look at my new site on: Astronomy for Kids .

A happy new year to everyone!