The Science of Astronomy is sublime and beautiful. Noble, elevating, consoling, divine, it gives us wings, and bears us through Infinitude. In these ethereal regions all is pure, luminous, and splendid. Dreams of the Ideal, even of the Inaccessible, weave their subtle spells upon us. The imagination soars aloft, and aspires to the sources of Eternal Beauty.
What greater delight can be conceived, on a fine spring evening, at the hour when the crescent moon is shining in the West amid the last glimmer of twilight, than the contemplation of that grand and silent spectacle of the stars stepping forth in sequence in the vast Heavens? All sounds of life die out upon the earth,
the last notes of the sleepy birds have sunk away, the Angelus of the church hard by has rung the close of day. But if life is arrested around us, we may seek it in the Heavens. These incandescing orbs are so many points of interrogation suspended above our heads in the inaccessible depths of space....
Gradually they multiply. There is Venus, the white star of the shepherd. There Mars, the little celestial world so near our own. There the giant Jupiter. The seven stars of the Great Bear seem to point out the pole, while they slowly revolve around it.... What is this nebulous light that blanches the darkness of the heavens, and traverses the constellations like a celestial path? It is the Galaxy, the Milky Way, composed of millions on millions of suns!... The darkness is profound, the abyss immense.... See! Yonder a shooting star glides silently across the sky, and disappears!..
The crimson disk of the Sun has plunged beneath the Ocean. The sea has decked itself with the burning colors of the orb, reflected from the Heavens in a mirror of turquoise and emerald. The rolling waves are gold and silver, and break noisily on a shore already darkened by the disappearance of the celestial luminary.
We gaze regretfully after the star of day, that poured its cheerful rays anon so generously over many who were intoxicated with gaiety and happiness. We dream, contemplating the magnificent spectacle, and in dreaming forget the moments that are rapidly flying by. Yet the darkness gradually increases, and twilight gives way to night.
The most indifferent spectator of the setting Sun as it descends beneath the waves at the far horizon, could hardly be unmoved by the pageant of Nature at such an impressive moment.
The light of the Crescent Moon, like some fairy boat suspended in the sky, is bright enough to cast changing and dancing sparkles of silver upon the ocean. The Evening Star declines slowly in its turn toward the western horizon. Our gaze is held by a shining world that dominates the whole of the occidental heavens. This is the "Shepherd's Star," Venus of rays translucent.
Little by little, one by one, the more brilliant stars shine out. Here are the white Vega of the Lyre, the burning Arcturus, the seven stars of the Great Bear, a whole sidereal population catching fire, like innumerable eyes that open on the Infinite. It is a new life that is revealed to our imagination, inviting us to soar into these mysterious regions.
The study of Astronomy is not, as many suppose, the sacrifice of oneself in a cerebral torture that obliterates all the beauty, the fascination, and the grandeur of the pageant of Nature. Figures, and naught but figures, would not be entertaining, even to those most desirous of instruction. Let the reader take courage! We do not propose that he shall decipher the hieroglyphics of algebra and geometry. Perish the thought! For the rest, figures are but the scaffolding, the method, and do not exist in Nature.