Milky Way/Bars


A friend of Emma’s recently told me that he rarely looks to see if the stars are visible at night. “I just don’t think about it,” he said. “My dad said he and his friends could find all the constellations and would play late into the night under the stars, but I didn’t grow up that way.”

This young man is not alone. When I spoke at a college in Texas, I asked how many of the students in the audience had seen the Milky Way. Only a few hands went up. I have found this to be true in colleges all over the country: Three-fourths of Americans grow up never having seen the Milky Way. In the last two centuries, we’ve obscured the Milky Way that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus, and Paul all knew so well by filling the night sky with manmade light. While artificial light certainly has benefits, it also has consequences—something called light pollution. Light pollution is caused in large part by poor lighting design—artificial light shining upward and outward toward the sky rather than focusing downward, where it is needed. From space, all of Europe and Japan and most of America can be seen as a glowing dome of light. In satellite photos taken at night, we can see that at least two-thirds of humanity lives under light-polluted skies. Here on earth, even on the clearest nights, most city residents can no longer view the stars. Instead, we have grown accustomed to a ubiquitous orange haze, while the glorious heavens created by God continue to shine, undisturbed and unheeded. Make an effort this summer to get outside the city and drink in the stars of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the light that beget Jesus and you and me and every follower of Christ.

For more of Dr. Sleeth’s reflections, see the Blessed Earth Hope for Creation Films and Guidebooks (Zondervan 2010).