Pastor-astronomer: Recent solar events are gifts of awe – Massillon Independent

"The heavens declare the glory"

NORTH CANTON July has been an auspicious month for stargazers like the Rev. David Ross, a lifelong of student of astronomy.

Hes been watching the Comet NEOWISE, which can be seen unaided in Northeast Ohio, just prior to sunrise. It will not return for 6,800 years.

On Sunday, the full moon, Jupiter and Saturn will align. On July 29, the Southern Delta Aquariids meteor shower will occur in the northeast skies.

"Theres always something interesting going on up there," he said.

Ross, a retired minister who co-pastors Simpson United Methodist Church in Plain Township with his wife, Barb, said the stars are a gift of Gods creation to provide humans with a sense of awe and wonder.

"I grew up in the 60s when the space program was all the rage," he said. "That just kind of stoked my interest over the years. Ive been able to enjoy building a telescope and taking pictures of comets, like Hale-Bopp."

In past years, Ross has done presentations on the Bethlehem Star.

"Certainly the Gospel mentions the Star of Bethlehem," he said. "Over the years, Ive come to appreciate, in terms of faith, the wonder of the world around us."

Ross cites theologians such as William Brown, who have noted that the Bibles "wisdom" literature - Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job and others - contributes to the formation of character through extolling natures wonders.

"If youre able to open yourself up through the gift of creation and the strange things which humble us, thats an important element for building character," he said. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

Ross recalls being in awe during the last solar eclipse, which he saw in Nashville.

"Its an uncanny feeling to see that. To think that people in earlier times and ages must have wondered what this is all about," he said. "In 2024, its going to be the full megillah. The line goes through Wooster and Cleveland, so we dont have to travel very far."

He noted that ancient people viewed comets as a bad omen. Prior to Comet NEOWISE, there were two others in March and April.

"I think the Lords trying to tell us something," he laughed. "Of course, hes always trying to tell us something. If it takes a comet to do that..."

Ross said he thinks the current pushback against science is a result of institutions being buffeted by scandals.

"So many institutions and authority figures have been undermined," he said. "Everybody seems to think they can go their own way and be their own authority. With the virus, I would have thought the science behind how we stay well would have been one the place where we put some trust.

"In church we pray for people who are sick, but hope the doctors do their best. Some challenge is appropriate, but we see what can happen if everything becomes a matter of opinion. It happened in Bible times when the prophets said, `Everyone went their own way. Its a recipe for chaos."

Ross said his favorite Scripture regarding astronomy is Psalm 19:

"The heavens declare the glory of God."

"C.S. Lewis said he thought those lines were some of the most beautiful written in the English language," he said. "Hes someone who had a real sense of how the stars and sky through the ages have spoken to religious people and nonreligious people."

Lewis "Narnia" series, he noted, makes use of stars and planets in their plots.

In 2014, the Star of Bethlehem Conference observed its 400th anniversary at University of Groningen in the Netherlands. The group was founded by Johannes Kepler, who wrote a theory contending there was an alignment of the planets.

"For me, its less the scientific search than the wonder," Ross said. "I got interested in Bethlehem Star from `Its a Wonderful Life."

The film opens on an image of a group of galaxies known as Stephans Quintet.

"(Director) Frank Capra had a lifelong interest in astronomy," Ross said. "He studied at what became Cal Tech. At the time, those galaxies were the definition of things to wonder about. Its key element of the storyline."

Last year, Ross spoke at festival in Seneca Falls, N.Y., which honors the film.

"Its not until George (Bailey) changes his perspective, its after that hes able to see the stars," Ross said. "Its after he comes back from the bridge that hes able to see the stars again."

Ross urges people to visit Stark County Wilderness Center Education Director Robin Gills Facebook page, which features information on stargazing.

"It doesnt take a group or gathering to enjoy astronomy," he said.

Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or

On Twitter: @cgoshayREP

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Pastor-astronomer: Recent solar events are gifts of awe - Massillon Independent

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