Poe and the Darkness of Night

January 18, 2002


Provided by: Sky Photography
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster

While Edgar Allen Poe was one of our most famous writers, he was also an amateur scientist. Tomorrow, Saturday, he would have been 193 years old. Poe is known for his somber moods and his writings often deal with night and darkness. It's interesting that in 1848, he published Eureka - An Essay on the Material and Spiritual Universe, in which he discusses why the night sky is dark and not bright. He wondered if the universe is so vast that the light from the myriad stars haven't had the time to reach us yet. Basically, he was right. When the most distant light does reach our eyes, then the nearer objects would have burned out, so we can never see the light from all the stars and galaxies at the same time. Thus the night sky is relatively dark. The photograph above shows the constellation Scorpio - the brightest object is Venus.

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