When TV was young, there was a very popular show based on the still hugely popular fictional character Superman. At the opening of this show was a familiar phrase that read, “See. High in the sky. He is a bird. It is a plane. He is Superman!” How Superman has become the beloved of our culture and the world’s fascination with aliens and all things cosmic only confirms that there is a deep curiosity in all humans about nature and science Astronomy, even if not many people know how to call it astronomy.
Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences of all time. When archaeologists discover ancient civilizations, even cavemen, they always find art that shows man an insatiable fascination with the stars. To this day, you can easily have a lively discussion at any meeting on the topic “Is there intelligent life on other planets?”
Many have attempted to explain humanity’s apparent obsession with outer space as a result of ancient memory or as part of humanity’s eternal nature. Whatever the reason, people of all ages and all nations share this deep interest, to learn more about the universe of which our little planet is only a part.
It’s totally weird because the actual behavior of a serious astronomy student isn’t really a great adventure. You will never see “Raiders of the Lost Arc” or “Jurassic Park” about an astronomer. The excitement of lovers of this science is to stay up all night in observing the universe through a powerful telescope. But that fact doesn’t seem to put off the tens of thousands of people who delve into astronomy each year and the massive worldwide interest in the stars, planets, and the universe.
There may not be another global human infatuation that does so much that national borders and even international hostility seem to evaporate. Aside from the Olympic movement, international cooperation to achieve great strides for humanity in space seems to be advancing without interruption even when the countries cooperating in these projects are in a state of actual war on the surface of the Earth. It’s strange to see how Russian and American astronauts and other astronauts work together as brothers on space missions, even when their home countries are busy targeting rockets at each other at home. It almost makes you think that we should put more energy and money into the space program, not least because it appears to be a bond that cures stress rather than creates it.
Why is astronomy so exciting when we don’t have dinosaurs or animated animals or any real threat to most of those obsessed with discipline? It can be traced back to the fundamental curiosity all humans have about their natural habitat and this big, mysterious thing called space. Perhaps it goes back to the old saying in the beginning of Star Trek that space is “the last frontier”.
But we all share this constant feeling of excitement every time we pull our telescopes and look directly at the universe above us. We feel we are witnessing the dawn of time. In light of the problems of the speed of light, which means that many of the twinkling stars are actually light from those stars that began their journey towards us thousands of years ago, we are actually looking directly at the past each time. We direct our eyes towards the sky.
But we don’t have to worry about occupying the last frontier and finding the satisfaction of our curiosity. There will always be more to learn and discover in the world of astronomy. And humanity’s curiosity about astronomy is likely to be limitless as well.