Monday, December 5, 2011

1881: Fifty stars in formation...

Saints Herald (Lamoni, IA), December 1st 1881

A BROTHER, we think it to be Senterlow Butler, has
sent us a copy of the St. Joseph, Missouri, Evening
News, containing the following, which if correct, is
certainly one of the wonders written of that were to
take place in the latter days.


About half past ten o’clock last night, a strangely
peculiar sight was observable in the heavens. As the
writer is not an astronomer, nor the son of one, he
can only give the astronomical formation as it
appeared to his verdant eyes. A star was noticed to
shoot in the direction, a little north of east, almost
directly toward the moon, and when apparently, to an
uncultured eye, within two score feet of Luna, it
stopped; this was followed by four other stars, which
took positions a few inches distant, and in a direct
line behind the first. This was followed by fully
fifty other stars, all of which were wonderfully
brilliant, which formed a perfect pyramid, funnel or
triangular shape. The shape when completed was about
thus, although it contained just fifty stars:

* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * *
* * * * * *
* * * * *
* * * *
* * *
* *

In this shape they remained for fully half an hour,
apparently stationary, and the sight was truly
beautiful and novel in the extreme. At the end of the
half hour they began to "break ranks," or "take their
departure," and the move was made as systematically as
it was formed, and about as coolly and deliberately as
a company of well disciplined soldiers would disband
or obey an order. The first star to go into position
was the first to move away, and it shot off toward the
moon, which was just coming up, and seemed to be
directly over Governor Woodson’s house. This star soon
disappeared and was lost sight of in the greater light
of the moon. It was followed, and deliberately, too,
and in equal time, by star after star, until each and
every one of fifty had disappeared in the same manner
as the first had done. The sight was truly a beautiful
one, and such a one as the writer never before beheld.
There were five or six others "taking observations" at
the same time, and all pronounced it an astronomical
phenomenon. The whole thing was very deliberate,
apparently, coolly and systematically executed. They
marched into place as gracefully as the Saxon Rifles,
and broke ranks with as much grace and precision. The
formation was apparently directly over Governor
Woodson’s home. The space between the several stars
appeared like a few inches, and between the first or
tail star and the moon like forty or fifty feet, when
it was doubtless countless thousands of miles. What
does it mean? is the question, the News would like to
ask some able-bodied astronomer or scientific

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