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This printable supports Common Core ELA Standards ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2, ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3, ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4 and ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6

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Scientific Text Analysis (Grades 11-12)

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Scientific Text Analysis

THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE HEAVENS

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.

We gaze regretfully after the star of day, that poured its cheerful rays anon so generously over many who were intoxicated with gaiety and happiness. We dream, contemplating the magnificent spectacle, and in dreaming forget the moments that are rapidly flying by. Yet the darkness gradually increases, and twilight gives way to night.

The most indifferent spectator of the setting Sun as it descends beneath the waves at the far horizon, could hardly be unmoved by the pageant of Nature at such an impressive moment.

The light of the Crescent Moon, like some fairy boat suspended in the sky, is bright enough to cast changing and dancing sparkles of silver upon the ocean. The[Pg 11] Evening Star declines slowly in its turn toward the western horizon. Our gaze is held by a shining world that dominates the whole of the occidental heavens. This is the "Shepherd's Star," Venus of rays translucent.

Little by little, one by one, the more brilliant stars shine out. Here are the white Vega of the Lyre, the burning Arcturus, the seven stars of the Great Bear, a whole sidereal population catching fire, like innumerable eyes that open on the Infinite. It is a new life that is revealed to our imagination, inviting us to soar into these mysterious regions.

O Night, diapered with fires innumerable! hast thou not written in flaming letters on these Constellations the syllables of the great enigma of Eternity? The contemplation of thee is a wonder and a charm. How rapidly canst thou efface the regrets we suffered on the departure of our beloved Sun! What wealth, what beauty hast thou not reserved for our enraptured souls! Where is the man that can remain blind to such a pageant and deaf to its language!

To whatever quarter of the Heavens we look, the splendors of the night are revealed to our astonished gaze. These celestial eyes seem in their turn to gaze at, and to question us. Thus indeed have they questioned every thinking soul, so long as Humanity has existed on our Earth. Homer saw and sung these[Pg 12] self-same stars. They shone upon the slow succession of civilizations that have disappeared, from Egypt of the period of the Pyramids, Greece at the time of the Trojan War, Rome and Carthage, Constantine and Charlemagne, down to the Twentieth Century. The generations are buried with the dust of their ancient temples. The Stars are still there, symbols of Eternity.

The silence of the vast and starry Heavens may terrify us; its immensity may seem to overwhelm us. But our inquiring thought flies curiously on the wings of dream, toward the remotest regions of the visible. It rests on one star and another, like the butterfly on the flower. It seeks what will best respond to its aspirations: and thus a kind of communication is established, and, as it were, protected by all Nature in these silent appeals. Our sense of solitude has disappeared. We feel that, if only as infinitesimal atoms, we form part of that immense universe, and this dumb language of the starry night is more eloquent than any speech. Each star becomes a friend, a discreet confidant, often indeed a precious counsellor, for all the thoughts it suggests to us are pure and holy.

Is any poem finer than the book written in letters of fire upon the tablets of the firmament? Nothing could be more ideal. And yet, the poetic sentiment that the beauty of Heaven awakens in our soul[Pg 13] ought not to veil its reality from us. That is no less marvelous than the mystery by which we were enchanted.

And here we may ask ourselves how many there are, even among thinking human beings, who ever raise their eyes to the starry heavens? How many men and women are sincerely, and with unfeigned curiosity, interested in these shining specks, and inaccessible luminaries, and really desirous of a better acquaintance with them?

Seek, talk, ask in the intercourse of daily life. You, who read these pages, who already love the Heavens, and comprehend them, who desire to account for our existence in this world, who seek to know what the Earth is, and what Heaven—you shall witness that the number of those inquiring after truth is so limited that no one dares to speak of it, so disgraceful is it to the so-called intelligence of our race. And yet! the great Book of the Heavens is open to all eyes. What pleasures await us in the study of the Universe! Nothing could speak more eloquently to our heart and intellect!

Astronomy is the science par excellence. It is the most beautiful and most ancient of all, inasmuch as it dates back to the indeterminate times of highest antiquity. Its mission is not only to make us acquainted with the innumerable orbs by which our nights are[Pg 14] illuminated, but it is, moreover, thanks to it that we know where and what we are. Without it we should live as the blind, in eternal ignorance of the very conditions of our terrestrial existence. Without it we should still be penetrated with the naïve error that reduced the entire Universe to our minute globule, making our Humanity the goal of the Creation, and should have no exact notion of the immense reality.

To-day, thanks to the intellectual labor of so many centuries, thanks also to the immortal genius of the men of science who have devoted their lives to searching after Truth—men such as Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton—the veil of ignorance has been rent, and glimpses of the marvels of creation are perceptible in their splendid truth to the dazzled eye of the thinker.

The study of Astronomy is not, as many suppose, the sacrifice of oneself in a cerebral torture that obliterates all the beauty, the fascination, and the grandeur of the pageant of Nature. Figures, and naught but figures, would not be entertaining, even to those most desirous of instruction. Let the reader take courage! We do not propose that he shall decipher the hieroglyphics of algebra and geometry. Perish the thought! For the rest, figures are but the scaffolding, the method, and do not exist in Nature.

[Pg 15]

Fig. 1.—The great Book of the Heavens is open to all eyes. Fig. 1.—The great Book of the Heavens is open to all eyes.
[Pg 16]

We simply beg of you to open your eyes, to see where you are, so that you may not stray from the path of truth, which is also the path of happiness. Once you have entered upon it, no persuasion will be needed to make you persevere. And you will have the profound satisfaction of knowing that you are thinking correctly, and that it is infinitely better to be educated than to be ignorant. The reality is far beyond all dreams, beyond the most fantastic imagination. The most fairy-like transformations of our theaters, the most resplendent pageants of our military reviews, the most sumptuous marvels on which the human race can pride itself—all that we admire, all that we envy on the Earth—is as nothing compared with the unheard-of wonders scattered through Infinitude. There are so many that one does not know how to see them. The fascinated eye would fain grasp all at once.

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.

Diamonds, turquoises, rubies, emeralds, all the precious stones with which women love to deck themselves, are to be found in greater perfection, more beautiful, and more splendid, set in the immensity of Heaven! In the telescopic field, we may watch the progress of armies of majestic and powerful suns, from[Pg 17] whose attacks there is naught to fear. And these vagabond comets and shooting stars and stellar nebulæ, do they not make up a prodigious panorama? What are our romances in comparison with the History of Nature? Soaring toward the Infinite, we purify our souls from all the baseness of this world, we strive to become better and more intelligent.
1. 
What is the primary purpose of the information in brackets?
  1. To define key terms
  2. To identify page numbers or page breaks
  3. To distract the reader
  4. To show the insertion of key images
2. 
What is the main idea of The Contemplation of the Heavens?



3. 
In the first paragraph the author describes...
  1. the sunrise
  2. the sunset
  3. the sun on the ocean
  4. the sky during a hurricane
4. 
In the fourth paragraph, how does the author use a simile to describe the moon?



5. 
The author believes that the beauty and majesty of the stars in the sky will only impress and delight some people.
  1. True
  2. False
6. 
How does the author use personification to describe the stars?
  1. He compares them to butterflies flitting on flowers.
  2. He explains that the stars seem to talk to humans.
  3. He calls them celestial eyes.
  4. He describes their beauty in terms of human beauty.
7. 
What does the author say is the problem with reading about the beauty of the heavens in books of poetry?



8. 
"To-day, thanks to the intellectual labor of so many centuries, thanks also to the immortal genius of the men of science who have devoted their lives to searching after Truth—men such as Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton—the veil of ignorance has been rent..."

The word RENT as used in this passage most likely means...
  1. Paid
  2. Opened
  3. Owed
  4. Hired out
9. 
What did scientists such as Copernicus and Galileo do?
  1. Through their writings and research they encouraged people to look at the stars.
  2. Their research and writings helped make the stars and sky actually accessible to people.
  3. They wrote prolific poetry that made it so that others didn't need to go outside and look at the stars.
  4. They caused the skies to become more confusing and terrifying to people.
10. 
Near the end of the passage, why does the author mention diamonds and other gems?



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