Saturday, 28 April 2012

Astronomy and Poetry go hand in hand...

Camille Flammarion
All astronomers are poets of that I am sure...

You can't help but feel the calling of the poet, once you've gazed upon the night skies....

To better emphasize my point, I often mention one of my favourite astronomers....  Camille Flammarion.

I was first introduced to Mr Flammarion some 10 years ago when I purchased a small book of his in a local charity shop....

The manager of the Charity shop, knowing how nuts I was about astronomy, kept the book to one side for me.

I'm glad she did..after a quick browse I was immediately drawn into the world of this wonderful French astronomer... 

The book was "Astronomy for Amateurs"

Who could not be captivated by the opening paragraph...

"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"

Much more was to follow........

"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"

"If you will yield yourselves to the pleasure of gazing upon the sparkling fires of Space, you will never regret the moments passed all too rapidly in the contemplation of the Heavens"

Nicolas Camille Flammarion was born in 1842 at Montigny-le-Roi in the department of Haute Marne, France. 

At the age of 16, in 1858, he wrote a 500-page manuscript, Cosmologie Universelle, and became an assistant of Le Verrier at the Paris Observatory. 

From 1862 to 1867, he temporarily worked at the Bureau of Longitudes. 

Camille was the author of more than 50 books, he did much to popularise astronomy....more than anyone at the time I reckon...

His writing has been described as eccentric, i.e he thought there was superior intelligent life on Mars, and that comets possibly contained toxic gases that would extinguish life on our planet.... etc 

But after reading the work of some of his contemporaries, it seems many people were sure that Mars was inhabited, and that Selenites roamed the Moon, and many thought comets were full of toxic gas.

Yes truly eccentric maybe.....

I have no problem with eccentricity.... the mark of a true amateur astronomer as far as I see it...

Observatory at Juvisy

In 1883 he set up his own private observatory at Juvisy (near Paris).
 From here he continued studies of double/multiple stars, the Moon and Mars...

More words by Camille:  from  Astronomy for Amateurs

Hail, vast Sun! a little star in Infinitude, but for us a colossal and portentous luminary. Hail, divine Benefactor! How should we not adore, when we owe him the glow of the warm and cheery days of summer, the gentle caresses by which his rays touch the undulating ears, and gild them with the touch? The Sun sustains our globe in Space, and keeps it within his rays by the mysteriously powerful and delicate cords of attraction. It is the Sun that we inhale from the embalmed corollas of the flowers that uplift their gracious heads toward his light, and reflect his splendors back to us. 
In 1919, Camille married his second wife Gabrielle Renaudot 1876–1962) and for six years they worked side by side to promote astronomy in France. 

After Camille died in 1925, Gabrielle continued to maintain Juvisy Observatory. 

She is buried next to her husband in the observatory park.

I'm not able to do justice to the astronomer Camille Flammarion in this short blog post. All I can say is, if you like poetry and are fascinated by the night skies, grab yourself one of his books........   you won't be disappointed  ....

Of all the astronomers of yesteryear, Camille Flammarion to my mind highlights the poetry of the stars that many amateur astronomers undoubtedly experience..

The final words go to Camille:

"Let us suppose that we inhabit a planet illuminated by two suns, one blue, the other red.
It is morning. The sapphire sun climbs slowly up the Heavens, coloring the atmosphere with a somber and almost melancholy hue. The blue disk attains the zenith, and is beginning its descent toward the West, when the East lights up with the flames of a scarlet sun, which in its turn ascends the heights of the firmament. The West is plunged in the penumbra of the rays of the blue sun, while the East is illuminated with the purple and burning rays of the ruby orb"


  1. Nice post Pembs and the pics are awesome too. You do have a bit of C.F. in you!

  2. Thanks SUG.... I reckon all of us stargazers have a bit of the C.F. spirit..... :0)

    I hope that pinky is better soon.......

  3. Diolch Mike.... :0)