An introduction to astronomy and stargazing

Mankind has always been fascinated with the skies since time immemorial. Stargazing wasn’t just a pastime on lovely nights. People sailed the seas and crossed continents with the stars as their guide. They even thought that the constellations charted their destinies. But that was before the big leap from astrology to astronomy.

Astronomy literally means ‘star law’, from the Greek words ‘astro’ (star) and ‘nomos’ (law), but astronomers would define it quite accurately as the ‘scientific study of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, etc.). , comets, and galaxies) and phenomena originating outside the Earth’s atmosphere (such as the cosmic background radiation), and deals with evolution, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and the motion of celestial objects, as well as the formation and development of the universe.’

As long as the Wikipedia definition seems, don’t let it bug you. Astronomy is more than tedious theories, calculations and observations. However, one thing is certain: astronomy is not for athletes.

Astronomy, one of the oldest sciences, was controversial because it challenged entrenched religious perceptions. Copernicus and Galileo Galilei paid a heavy price for clinging to their correct observations of the solar system: that the Earth revolved around the Sun, and not the other way around, as the Catholic Church used to insist. Ancient civilizations recorded celestial phenomena, albeit supported by superstitious grounds.

However, the invention of the telescope provided a significant impetus for the transformation of celestial observations into a true science. “Historically, astronomy has included disciplines as diverse as astrometry, celestial navigation, observational astronomy, calendar making, and even astrology,” says Wiki, “but today, professional astronomy is often considered synonymous with of astrophysics”.

Today, professional astronomy focuses on observation or theory. Observational astronomy acquires and analyzes data using basic principles of physics, while theoretical astronomy is primarily concerned with analytical models to describe objects and phenomena in space. These two branches, of course, complement each other.

However, don’t get the impression that you need a Ph.D. in astrophysics to be properly curious about the fascinating array of stars on a clear, moonless night. Amateur astronomers have made many important astronomical discoveries. In fact, astronomical societies encourage the participation of amateur observers, since the sky is too wide for professional astronomers alone to cover.

So start looking at the stars and don’t just memorize the constellations. You can buy or make your own amateur telescope and observe the sky. Paraphrasing the late Carl Saga: in the immensity of the universe and the immensity of time, it is an honor to share a planet, time and ‘hobby’ with Galileo Galilei.