Spherical astronomy reveals much mathematical symmetry in the sky. Everything in astronomy is balanced, such as day and night, summer and winter, and north and south. Numerous examples abound. At latitude 40 degrees north, the longest summer days are fifteen hours long and summer nights nine hours. Conversely, winter daylight lasts nine hours, and winter night for fifteen hours.
Symmetry and balance exist from one side of the globe to the other. When it is summer in the northern hemisphere, it is winter in the southern hemisphere. This results from the sun’s apparent annual motion along the ecliptic, its circular path through the constellations. The sun moves about one degree per day along the ecliptic, which causes the seasonal variation in daylight and heat. Perhaps the psalmist was referring to this when he wrote, “In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,” since the sun “pitches its tent” in a different place on the ecliptic each day.
This short article cannot begin to uncover all of God’s glory in the mathematical science of spherical astronomy. Only a thick mathematical textbook full of equations can fully detail the aspects of this ancient, traditional approach to astronomy. Nonetheless, anyone willing to step outside, look up, and diligently observe His firmament can still explore the wisdom and understanding of this amazing order today. We can rest assured that the Creator has concealed an amazing mathematical order in the sky, one of the ways that “the heavens declare the glory of God.”
Jay Ryan is the author of Signs & Seasons: Understanding the Elements of Classical Astronomy, a homeschool astronomy curriculum, and Moonfinder, a book for every member of the family to learn how to follow the monthly cycle of the moon’s phases. Visit Ryan’s website at www.classicalastronomy.com.