In many places throughout Tolkien's works, he describes his characters seeing stars in the sky during daylight hours, usually when the characters are passing through deep, narrow canyons or ravines. For instance, it happens to the Grey Party in the canyon of Dunharrow, in The Return of the King, and to Tuor and Voronwë as they pass through the Orfalch Echor on the way to Gondolin, in the first chapter of Unfinished Tales.
In the real world, there was a very long lived old wives tale along these lines: According to many otherwise reliable sources, such as Aristotle and Sir John Herschel, a person at the bottom of a canyon, mineshaft, or extremely tall chimney can see stars during daylight hours. Unfortunately for these sources, this is absolute nonsense. Scientists have, on more than one occasion, attempted to test this idea, and the result is always the same: Unless there is a solar eclipse, you can't see stars with the naked eye during daylight hours under any circumstances, ever. It has been calculated that, to be visible to the naked eye during daylight hours, a star would have to be at least 5 times brighter than the brightest star in the sky.
I'm wondering if Tolkien fell for the same tall tale as Aristotle and Sir John Herschel - that is to say, if he believed that a person in the real world could see stars with the naked eye during daylight hours - or if he is saying that things worked differently in Middle-earth 6,000 years ago than they do now.
The latter possibility is certainly plausible in the context of the stories, because he also describes a lake in which the night sky is always reflected, even during the daytime (Lake Mirrormere, located just outside the gates of Khazad-dûm/Moria).
So there are basically two possible explanations:
People in Middle-earth can see the stars because of magic and stuff, which wouldn't be surprising, since magic is very real in Tolkien's world.
People in Middle-earth can see the stars because Tolkien believed the old wives tale.
The former option is more appealing, but I think the latter option is more likely.
Why do I think the latter option is more likely? Because elsewhere in his works, Tolkien seems to support other old wives tales, such as the now-debunked belief that it is unhealthy to drink extremely cold water. This belief was fairly common until the middle of the 20th century, for reasons that I don't fully understand. Tolkien seems to have believed it, and his characters act as though it were true.
Is there any way to determine which of these two possibilities is the real explanation? Do Tolkien's characters see the stars because Middle-earth is different from the world we live in, or because Tolkien believed an old wives tale?