Astronomy is the Science that studies the stars, planets, galaxies and everything else in the universe. Someone who studies astronomy is called an Astronomer. Astronomy deals with objects which are incredibly large, far larger than the whole Earth. Astronomy deals with forces that are incredibly powerful like a Supernova explosion. Astronomy deals with incredible distances. Astronomy also deals with incredibly small things like fundamental particles, atoms and molecules. Astronomy tells us why we are here and where we came from. Scientific astronomy gives better answers than religion. Some people find astronomy really cool and exciting. If you feel like seeing how you like it you can always take a peek at our Astronomy section.
Astronomy teaches us that humanity far from being at the centre of the Universe is actually on a small planet orbiting a fairly average star amongst a myriad of stars in one of the less fashionable arms of a fairly bog standard Galaxy, in a Universe so vast that it contains more galaxies than a beach does grains of sand, and so ancient that we have telescopes that have detected light or other radiation from things that happened very long ago - some of it from over 10 Billion years ago.
This isn't a problem for liberals but it's a problem for those conservatives with religions that put humanity at the centre of the Universe or with religion that has a chronology out by six orders of magnitude. But if you were brought up believing that there is only one God and that we are his special people, then astronomy can be upsetting. If your religion told you that the world is thousands of years old rather than thousands of Millions of years old then you might find Astronomy quite challenging.
One of the big questions that faces humanity is Are we the only ones out there? Is there anyone else out there? Many religions teach that only humans have souls, or that we are made in the image of God, they may say that straignt out or they may just imply it. For monotheists that suggests only one intelligent species in the Universe (Doubtless if we do meet some small furry creatures from Proxima Centauri liberal theologians will start to point out that as God is infinite s/he can have as many images as a woman has hairstyles). Astronomy teaches us that as we are in such a vast Universe that the number of stars similar to our Sun is practically infinite, and it is a safe assumption that the number of potentially habitable planets is also uncountable, we have already detected many Exoplanets. In such a Universe it is reasonable to suspect that Life has evolved many many times and so there is a very good chance that Intelligent life exists somewhere out in the Universe, which is quite reassuring, because as the song goes "There's b******** chance of finding it here on Earth".
Were the lunar landings a hoax?
Some Conservatives have responded to all this unsettling scientific stuff by denial They complain about astronomy and even the Apollo program imagining it's a Government funded hoax perpetrated against the American taxpayer. One expose of these charlatans was a British TV documentary which investigated various outlandish claims such as faked moon landings, and visited the observatory that measures the distance between the Earth and the moon. An astronomer there explained how he and his colleagues were sending pulses of light to a mirror left on the moon by the Apollo program and using the time between sending the light and detecting a flash on the lunar surface to make very precise measurements of the distance between the Earth and the moon. The interviewer then asked him how the various deniers reacted when he gave them that explanation, he replied that none of the "sceptics" had actually visited to test the evidence for themselves.
Genuine fantasists would have tried to test the evidence, and at least compared the spectrum of light reflected from the moon to the spectrum of light reflected from a block of green cheese. But charlatans don't care much for evidence.
Let there be light
Astronomy like religion provides explanations for big questions such as How did it all begin? religious conservatives tend to get discommoded when they discover that Astronomy often gives very different answers than their religion. Currently the theory that best fits the known data is that approximately 13,700,000,000 years ago there was a big bang and this universe exploded into being.
As Astronomy is a pure science, with until recently few obvious planned commercial spinoffs, it tends to rely on Government funding, amateurs and philanthropists. This makes conservatives suspicious of it, especially those conservatives who don't trust anything funded by taxation (except Tax funded War). But Astronomy has a fine record of unexpected spinoffs, from navigation and timekeeping to communication satellites and satellite TV.
International Year of Astronomy
The United Nations declared 2009 the International Year of Astronomy. This celebrates the time when Galileo first pointed a telescope at the sky and found out exciting stuff like that the Earth moves round the Sun. Well in the 21st Century there are a few Christians who don’t even understand that. See Geocentrism.
It is hoped that people worldwide will pay attention to astronomy and learn to understand the subject better.
- Douglas Adams The Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy
- Monty Python's Life of Brian