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5 Fun Facts About Astronomy

Study of the skies: Simply put, astronomy is the scientific study of objects and phenomena that lie beyond the earth’s atmosphere (i.e. celestial bodies); anything from the Moon to the most distant stars that can be seen with the most powerful telescope Man can build falls under its purview, for instance. Astronomy tends to be very closely linked to astrophysics; often, the study of one field is deeply informed by the findings of the other, and vice-versa.

Can be done by anyone: Despite astronomy being the scientific study of the heavens, you don’t have to be a scientist to be an astronomer. Anyone with the proper know-how, determination and equipment can make contributions to the field of astronomy. In fact, astronomy is one of the fields whose body of knowledge can and is regularly enlarged by the efforts of amateurs. This is especially true when it comes to observing and documenting transient phenomena, where professional astronomers simply may not be available to observe them.

Doesn’t need a telescope: Astronomy is most commonly associated with observatories and telescopes, but surprisingly enough, you don’t really need either to be an astronomer. A big part of astronomy actually involves using the information obtained from observation and trying to puzzle out the true nature of whatever you saw, using astrophysics, geology, and other forms of work that never need you to even go near a telescope at all! Of course, you still need to bring in fresh data every now and then… but if need be, an astronomer can produce the most meaningful work of his life away from a telescope.

Been around forever: Astronomy is easily one of the oldest sciences in recorded human history. Ever since man first looked up into the night sky and saw stars, he has been recording, pondering and analyzing them. The first astronomers were the Babylonians, whose priests interpreted the movements of the heavens as celestial portents. Of course, their observations were limited to the use of the human eye, but still, they were among the first pioneers, and certainly among the first who actually recorded their findings (albeit in cuneiform, but still).

Year of the Astronomer: You might not know this, but this year, 2009, is the International Year of Astronomy, as declared by the 62nd General Assembly of the United Nations. Its significance is that 2009 is the 400th year after the first findings by Galileo through his telescope, and the publication of Johannes Kepler’s book, Astronomia nova, where he outlined his theories on the movements of the planets.

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