Last night, as I sat on the deck looking upward, I counted a billion stars. I may have missed one or two, but I think that’s forgivable, considering the scope of the sky. Cool, clear nights are the best ones for star-gazing. They allow one to look upward and count in broad, sweeping strokes, a hundred million stars at a time. The blackness of space and the tiny pinpoints of dim, flickering light cannot be adequately reproduced by artists because the light in the night sky, and the sky itself, is too vague for the canvas. The colors and texture one sees in the night sky are too imprecise to be matched by paints or pigments. And the human eye simply does not have the acuity to adequately capture the sky. We must rely on cameras and telescopes and other artificial means of enhancing what we see if we want a more precise image of our skyward glances. But when we do that, we change what we see into something different, though admittedly spectacular. So, in my view, the best way to understand the awe the night sky generates in us is to simply stare at the sky through our own inadequate eyes.
This morning, I took my cup of coffee out on the deck again and looked skyward. It’s still pitch black at five the morning, but I believe I saw even more stars, perhaps a hundred billion of them. The dim lights in the sky seemed just a bit more distinct, a tad brighter and more hopeful this morning. It’s considerably cooler this morning than it was last night; maybe that’s why the stars seems so much brighter. Or, perhaps, it’s because I had all night to consider the faint image last night’s viewing left in my brain and, when I looked up this morning, that slightly blurred image came into sharper focus.