I can’t decide whether stars are overrated, underrated, or cliché. The celestial activities in the wild blue yonder had some very important bearings on life and culture in world history. In early centuries—before GPS, MapQuest, and even commonplace physical maps—sailors, merchants, explorers—anybody who took to the open seas—navigated their way with what was in the sky. Before eclipses were recognized, ancient cultures feared that a great monster or other being was swallowing up the sun. If you know the religious accounts to the history of Christmas, you probably know that the Protestant Bible speaks of wise men following a bright star which led them to Bethlehem where Jesus Christ was born. (The story is detailed in Matthew, chapter 2) Also, Greek and Roman culture named star clusters and planets after their gods and goddesses. Philosophers like Aristotle and Plato proposed theories about the universe that were studied, challenged, approved, and adapted by the scientists of the Renaissance and Scientific Revolution. Men like Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler, helped shape the field of Astronomy (and even some other sciences) to what is had and known today.
Does it all mean as much to us today? Just seeing a few stars in the night sky can be difficult when we live in and around big, bright-lit cities (or just any bright-lit area for that matter). They’re white dots on a black backdrop for things that occurred long ago in a galaxy far away, and sometimes the subject of pop songs; we all know “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “Airplane” by Rihanna and B.o.B. The definition of “star” these days isn’t limited to celestial bodies anymore. Stars are all over Hollywood, and signal fortune or trouble (if you follow astrology). We see stars (the idiomatic reference is not intentional) and the skies so much differently in this day and age, even though we can see more than ever before. You don’t have to be an astronaut or work with NASA to see all the amazing wonders beyond our planet. There are many ways the info gathered by the experts is readily accessed by the general public. If you’re a college student, enroll in an Astronomy class if your school offers one. Participate in an Astronomical group if there’s one in your community. Or, even simpler, find some resources through the internet. Seeing and understanding the universe for what it really is great for personal enrichment. Here’s what can come of it:
- You’ll gain a sense of direction-Technology will never fail us, and we may never find ourselves in uncharted wilderness. But in the off-chance our modern devices are unreliable in the middle of nowhere, knowing some things about the orientation of the stars and the sun might help you get from that kind of situation to assistance and safety.
- You’ll better understand the universe-The galaxy, the universe, and the solar system are all different terms and concepts. Earth’s distance from the sun has nothing to do with the four seasons. Milky Way is more than a candy bar, and outer space is not just some white light in black nothing-ness. These are but a few things that the average person misunderstands or is ignorant to in the subject of astronomical matters. Astronomy teaches the truth about these things, and you’ll be amazed by what is really out there beyond our planet!
- You can see other worlds…quite literally!-A study in Astronomy wouldn’t be complete without a look at the planets. Satellites and spacecraft have made it possible to have a look at them, and the images developed can be accessed quite easily. If you don’t have an astronomy textbook to look at, Google Images and even Google Earth can help you get closer to our solar system.
- You’ll discover Astrophotography-This happened to me in my own engagement in an Astronomy course. Simply put, it’s Astronomy in art form. Astrophotographers are connected with the scientific community; so much of what is seen and known about the subject is made possible by them. Search astrophotography on Google images, or even on other platforms like Pinterest or Tumblr, and you’ll find some pretty incredible sights captured by them!
For centuries, civilizations have thrived on and marveled at the phenomena of the universe; and centuries of study and technological advances have brought about greater understanding of the skies we see. The world is our oyster, as it’s been said, but the universe which holds our world is a deep sea full of many other wondrous things to know and explore. If you’re interested in learning about Astronomical subjects, here are some other resources to help you get started:
NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD): Every day, NASA posts interesting new pictures of sky and celestial phenomena. This collection has been running for eighteen years. There’s an (APOD) app available for most personal devices. While most images have come from NASA and astrophotographers, you could make a submission if you wanted. (info on that here.)
Hubblesite.org-This site has all things related to the ventures of the Hubble Telescope. You can find authentic pictures from the spacecraft, information on its discoveries, resources for more research and study, and even news on Hubble’s future replacement spacecraft, the Webb Telescope.
Astronomy.com-Check out the world’s best-selling Astronomy magazine. Subscribe to a newsletter, get a digital, or physical copy.
Skyandtelescope.com-an affiliate of the PBS program SkyWeek.
Google Earth-Google Earth has features that can let you look at the constellations, the moon, and Mars. Like on the Earth setting, there’s a lot to interact with.
StarofBethlehem.net-If you’re interested in the Biblical account of the star I mentioned earlier, this DVD and project explains the significance and Biblical references relating to the stars.