Just a blog -- on Astronomy
By amar_universe; Published 16 Apr 2013
This is just another blog, which I felt like simply writing out of my love to express words. It all happened under pure natural flow. And after further additions and editing, I am sharing my thoughts here with all. It's been so long now I have not written any observing-report, courtesy bad weather. Read on...and enjoy!
Astronomy is the oldest of all sciences, prevailing since pre-historic times, as witnessed proof in many cave paintings. The ancient people (well, even the reptilian dinosaurs, if they could) must have looked above and wondered at the dazzling displays of stars, clusters, cloudy band of Milky-Way, passing streaks of light called shooting stars, and occasionally a bright long-tailed celestial visitor called a Comet.
Comets deserve a special mention here, because they instilled fear and the jitters in many cultures, from times continuous as Before Christ until the post-Medieval era. Over time, just because of their unpredictablity and physical appearance, these objects were believed to be celestial-swords and harbringers of evil. It's recorded, that even some people and kings simply dropped down dead at the sight of one, surmising of it's arrival as a portent of their doom!
As generations passed, understanding grew and it was proved that the Geo-centric (Earth centered) model of our Universe (or rather the Anthropo-Ego-centric) was not right, even though the highly regarded Roman Church held it as the Ultimate word. Thoughts matured and put our Sun, just another ordinary star amidst the infinitely existing stars, as the centre of our Solar System. During the beginning of the 20th century is when science actually progressed, thanks to the hard labour of Edwin Hubble and the prodigious likes. He identified our Galaxy, the Milky-Way was among the several existing 'Island Universes' or 'Nebulae' called galaxies. And yet again, there were gazillions of them; now our Universe was seeming to teem with uncountable stars and galaxies.
All stars we see overhead on a clear and dark moonless night (away from the habited oceans of lights or cities and towns, and their greatly increasing and dangerous 'light-pollution') accompanied by a faintly glowing, but arching, cloudy band belongs to our Galaxy. A small telescope or even a small bird-watching pair of binoculars you possess, is the best way to begin your journey into the night sky. An Astronomer is one who studies astronomy, not to be confused with an Astronaut or Astrologer, even though their roots are related. An astronaut (Russian - Cosmonaut) is that lucky human who heads out to space in a craft, for either experiments or fun-travel. An astrologer is a researcher who looks at the movement of planets and stars, and associates with how it affects human life and the system.
There are basically two types of astronomers; one is a Professional, who for example mainly earns his livelihood working at a research Observatory using state-of-the-art scientific tools and gadgets. The other is an Amateur, who generally has a small equipment to look at the stars and the night sky with his own eyes, and spends nights outdoors in the frigid weather. Most of the planet's fraction of astronomers, needless to say, falls in this category. Anyone could begin solitary, anytime, anywhere and without any formal pre-requisite.
However, these days the advancement of technology, and improvement of economic (even social) standards of most households, has brought these hobby astronomers in a stiff challenge with the scientists. Even you could start with a modest amateur life, get experience over time, and once you win a lottery, buy yourself a fully automated telescope. But first, just go out and start looking at the night sky, from a different perspective -- one with admiration and wonder of the Infinity, which you must never ever have done before. Start identifying the once-meaningless-to-you dots in the sky forming constellations and patterns, and differentiating stars from planets, satellites, and meteors. Over time, its a rule of Nature, you will get better.
With the ocean of information that internet now is, along with a few basic astronomy books your grandfather must have handed over to you from his reminiscing childhood astronomy days, trust me you have a great astronomy future lying ahead of you! Most metropolitian cities in India have their own clubs of amateur astronomers, whom you could find and join. They are active in most astronomical related activities -- following up and tracking celestial events, obserivng stars and galaxies with binoculars, and telescopes (those even hand-made by them) and arts like astro-photography, and astro-sketching, and spreading the word of it all to the common ignorant masses.
Then...astronomy is not always a single boring life, spent looking up. Amateur astronomers (like any man) are also a social animal, and love to party. Amateurs from different cities develop contact and meet together at a dark-sky-site common to them. They bring along their battalion of equipments, telescopes and accessories, share and exchange information, even show-off their costly telscopes, and do astronomy, party-style, under the stars.
Given a honest few months and years devotedly, and few sacrifices out of your ordinary material-life, you can be the next amateur astronomer who could even discover a comet, or a supernova...who knows?! It's not so very hard to make Lady Luck (Mother Nature) smile at you. :-)
Amar A. Sharma
-- In an incessant hunt of the extremely adored comets and galaxies. So fortunate I am to have used these eyes plainly hooked at the Cosmos, to make me feel how exceptionally insignificant I am, and how sublimely beautiful it is out there.