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May 17 2013

Why I love Astronomy

I love astronomy because it is full of wonder and amazement.

Size and scale

The shear size and scale of the observable universe is incredible and what lies beyond is the stuff that theoretical cosmologists dream about. Astronomy is all about the smallest bits of stuff that make up atoms through to the everyday scales of you and me and all the way up to galaxies that are hundreds and thousands of light years across. Then you add in the fact that there are billions and billions of galaxies that we can see in our observable universe and it is just incredible.

Cheap, Quick and easy

Astronomy is not a difficult of expensive hobby to get into. You can just go outside in the dark, look up and use your Mk.1 eyeball to view the wonder of the night sky. You will be able to see the moon, planets, stars and if you have good eyesight you may be able to pick out a faint galaxy or two. You will also be able to see patterns in the stars, constellations, different colours of stars and different levels of brightness. By using a simple and cheap planetarium app on your phone or tablet you can also learn about the things you see or find the things you are interested in.

Science. Its awesome

Astronomy has taught me that science is awesome. There are lots and lots of things that cannot be explained by science yet but what can be explained is truly awesome. Many of the things we take for granted today (gravity, light, planetary motion) well all worked out by really smart guys before they had accurate measurement methods, calculators and computers. They were making observations using handmade equipment but still producing realistic testable results. And for me this is the key. They were able to work out a theory, make some pre or “postdictions”  and then test the theory using experiments. Mostly this was done using a paper and pen. We know so much about the universe and how it works and this is through the hard work of many scientists experimenting, measuring & testing, adjusting and trying again until something is repeatable and fits with the theory. Awesome.

Scepticism

Astronomy has taught me to be more sceptical about life and to try to question everything. Especially when something seems to good to be true. It has laos taught me that it is up to the individual making the claim to provide the proof that it is true rather than try to convince them that they are making a false claim. If someone says to me “The moon is made of cheese” I would ask them to prove it to me rather then tell them it is not*. This is a great life skill but also make me more inquisitive. Perfect for Astronomy.

Mathematics

I have always struggled a bit with maths but Astronomy is based on maths. It is used to calculate the pressure in the centre of the sun, the mass of jupiter, the redshift of galaxies light years away from us and, using e=mcthe energy stored in you and me. Mathematics is the foundation of astronomy and allows us to work out all sorts of fantastic properties of objects we would never be able to actually visit or sample in person. It can be difficult but again, it is awesome.

The wonder

Finally I really enjoy looking out at the night sky and wondering, what if… Is there someone else out there looking back at me, were did it all come from, what else is out there that we have not yet discovered? These questions are what Astronomy is all about for me.

*The moon is not made of cheese!

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