The Telescope in Early Modern English Literature
Some 40 years ago, the renowned cosmologist and observatory director Harlow Shapley wrote of Job’s interrogation by G-d from Chap. 38 in the biblical Book of Job. “This is no elementary quiz,” the great astronomer wrote. “I would call it a swift-moving doctoral oral” (Shapley, 143). Shapley gives this ancient parable a modern interpretation of a tortured man struggling to understand his relation to the Universe. “Were you there,” asks G-d, “when I created the stars of the Pleiades or Orion?” The birth of a star is one of the most beautiful and violent processes that our galaxy offers: A long period of dark, impenetrable cloudiness (the specific prenatal cloud is called a Bok globule) is followed by an ignition flash as the nascent Sun begins nuclear fusion. At the end of the process, the new star’s surrounding nebulosity quickly burns away.