By Robert Bowie jr.
I had the good fortune of coming across the book, The Stars: A New Way to See Them by H. A. Rey some time ago. Rey’s book helped me understand the relationship between the earth’s daily rotation, its yearly revolution around the sun, and the place and appearance of the constellations. When I share my knowledge of the night sky with others, I begin by asking if anyone in the group can find the North Star because it is our frame of reference for what appears elsewhere. Almost invariably, someone in the group says, “The North Star is the brightest star, right?” Polaris is certainly visible to the naked eye, but as a second magnitude star in Ursa Minor, it is very far from the brightest, the Dog Star Sirius. There is no logical reason to assume that the earth’s axis conveniently points to the brightest star, yet people make that unwarranted assumption quite often.
A similar illogical and unwarranted assumption prevails relating to the landing spot of Noah’s ark. People—highly educated people—are sure that Noah’s ark landed on the remote and inaccessible heights of Mount Ararat, a 17,000-foot volcanic mountain in modern-day Turkey. The Book of Genesis does not say that the ark landed near the top of Ararat, or even on Ararat, but rather “on the mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4).