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The Astronomical Observer

The Astronomical Observer

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Excerpt from The Astronomical Observer: A Handbook to the Observatory and the Common Telescope

"Mysterious Night! when our first parent knew
Thee from report divine, and heard thy name,
Did he not tremble for this lovely frame,
This glorious canopy of light and blue?
Yet, 'neath a curtain of translucent dew,
Bathed in the rays of the great setting flame,
Hesperus with the host of heaven came,
And, lo! Creation widen'd in man's view.
Who could have thought such darkness lay conceal'd
Within thy beams, O Sun! or who could find,
Whilst fly, and leaf, and insect stood reveal'd,
That to such countless orbs Thou mad'st us blind!
Why do we then shun death with anxious strife?
If light can thus deceive, why may not life?"

The history of Astronomical Science is probably coeval with the history of man. The unrivalled splendour of the night sky would naturally awaken interest, that interest would induce observation, and observation would soon inculcate the leading principles of astronomy. If Adam wept, as poets tell us, when he beheld the first sunset, his sorrow must have been very soon turned into joy at the appearance of Sirius, "monarch of the suns," with his heavenly host. Josephus asserts that "God indulged the antediluvians with a very long life, in order that they might bring astronomy and geometry to perfection;" and that "Abraham was a most intense observer of the stars, and the first to bring astronomy from Chaldea into Egypt." Job certainly possessed an intimate knowledge of the heavens, for this is implied in the questions addressed to him by the Creator, "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?" - Job xxxviii. 31 - 33. David was an observer of the heavens, and composed some astronomical hymns (Psa. viii. and xix.) for the services of the Temple; Isaiah exhorted the Hebrews to a contemplation of the starry firmament as a ground of confidence in God: "Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number.

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