- Article (blog post)
- 600 words
- Level: all audiences
A post by Vatican Observatory astronomer Br. Guy Consolmagno, S. J., on The Catholic Astronomer blog. Br. Consolmagno writes about knowing the science of astronomy versus knowing the night sky, and about knowing theology versus knowing God:
“Look, along the ecliptic, directly opposite the point where the Sun lies; around midnight, you can see sunlight reflected back to us from the dust of the asteroid belt,” one friend pointed out to me. “It’s called the googenshine!” Actually, that’s gegenschein; but I didn’t correct him. I had studied it in graduate school; I knew how to spell it, and what the German words mean. But unlike my friend, I had never actually seen it before.
A lot of professional astronomers never look at the night sky; some of them don’t even know how to find the most basic constellations. Even those of us who came to our professional calling from a teen-aged enthusiasm with small telescopes now spend most of our outdoor nights on high mountaintops: the thin atmosphere there can mean clearer images for our instruments, but it deprives our human eyes of the oxygen we need to see the stars in their full glory.
All sorts of analogies come to mind comparing the world of astronomy with religion. We know theologians whose inability to see the living God makes them seem oxygen deprived. We’ve met the simple believer who couldn’t spell hamartiology but who knows sin when they see it. And yet, the amateur astronomers were delighted to have a few professionals among them… to enrich their enthusiasm.