An excerpt from James A. Michener's novel Space:
To honor John Popes' return to his hometown, the citizens and the university united in organizing a gala celebration worthy of a national hero, but the community itself was far from united on anything else; in fact, it was riven into warring segments.
Religious fundamentalists who believed in the literal truth of every word of the Old Testament had some time before launched a crusade in the state of Fremont to expunge from the school curriculum, elementary through university graduate work, any reference to Darwin's theory of evolution, and the movement might have died under the scorn of editorials and expert testimony had not the Reverend Leopold Strabismus of the United Scripture Alliance of Los Angeles seen the situation as a heaven-sent opportunity to lead a publicity campaign against godless humanism. He therefore moved into his wife's state with great force.
His assault became so powerful and his logic so persuasive that the voters of Fremont placed a referendum on the ballot so that the citizens of the entire state could vote on whether Genesis was correct or Darwin, whether God was supreme or some Communist atheistic humanists at Yale University.
Several professors of geology volunteered to debate Strabismus, but he would meet them only in his tent, where the choir, the charm of Mrs Strabismus, the cheers of his supporters and the antics of Chimp-Champ-Chump put the scientists to route.
When the vote was counted, the people of Fremont had elected to rescind most of modern science, and the educators of the state began the painful process of weeding out from their libraries any books which spoke well of Darwin, geology or dinosaurs. The task was easier than it sounded because avid citizens volunteered for the job, and there was a general cleansing.
It was into this heated atmosphere that John Pope returned, and there was general apprehension when the university announced that its most beloved professor emeritus, Karl Anderssen, who had taught John Pope his astronomy, would give the major address at the celebration. Anderssen was now a very old man and there was cause to fear that he might ramble on, and a possibility that although he had not participated in the fight against Strabismus, he might speak unguardedly and open old wounds. The officials were relieved, therefore, when Anderssen said, "I'll give my speech honoring John in the planetarium."
"The place is small enough," the president of the university assured his board, "so that the rabble can't force their way in."
They convened at eight in the evening, the intellectual cream of the community, many of whom had voted to outlaw evolution and geology, but they were not fanatics and they wanted to hear what the old man had to say.
"Tonight is the twenty-second of June 1976, and when the lights go down we shall see the heavens as they are outside this planetarium. Now, I'm going to turn the sky-clock back 922 years. It is again June 22 in A.D. 1054. The sky looks almost the same as it does tonight, a few planets in different positions, but that's about all.
"I'm going to speed through eighteen days, and here we have the heavens as they appeared at sunset on the night of 10 July 1054. Let's to midnight. In Baghdad, where Arabic astronomers are looking at the sky, as they always did. Nothing unusual. Now it's 11 July 1054, toward three in the morning. Still nothing exceptional. But look! There in the constellation Taurus!
In the silence of the planetarium the audience watched in awe as an extremely brilliant light began to emerge from the far tip of the Bull's horn. It exceeded anything else in the heavens, infinitely brighter than Venus, and increasing in brilliance each moment.
"It was a supernova, in the constellation Taurus, and we know the exact date because Arabic astronomers in many countries saw it and made notes which confirmed sightings in China. Indians in Arizona saw it and marveled. In the South Pacific natives marked the miracle. And watch as daylight comes in 1054!. The new star is so bright it can be seen even against the rays of the Sun, which was not far off in Cancer.
"For twenty-three days, the astronomers of Cathay and Araby tell us, this supernova dominated the sky, almost as bright as the Sun, the most incandescent event in recorded history. No other nova ever came close to this one. Look at it! Challenging even the Sun! And watch how it commandeered the night sky, this flaming beacon."
He allowed his planetarium to run rather slowly, re-creating the cycle of those twenty-three unequaled days, when watchers throughout the world had been stunned by this miracle. By day, by night, it filled the planetarium so that John and Penny Pope could see each other in its radiance, and the faces of all around them. And then, on the evening of the second day of August 1054 the great new star diminished, fading with a speed more precipitous that that with which it had arisen, until Taurus looked as it had for a thousand years and would look for a thousand years thereafter.
"Why do I tell you these things on the night we honor our cherished son John Pope? For one simple reason. This great star, which must have been the most extraordinary sight in the history of the heavens during mankind's observation, was noted in China, in Arabia, in Alaska, in Arizona and in the South Pacific, for we have their records to prove it. But in Europe nobody saw it. From Italy to Moscow, from the Urals to Ireland, nobody saw it. At least, they made no mention of it. They lived through one of the Earth's most magnificent spectacles and nobody bothered even to note the fact in any parchment, or speculate upon it in any manuscript.
"We know the event took place, for with the telescope tonight we can see the remnants of the supernova hiding in Taurus, but we have searched every library in the western world without finding a single shred of evidence that the learned people of Europe even bothered to notice what was happening about them.
"An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it."
Michener, J. A. (1982). Space. New York: Random House.