Astronomy = see stars??

When I tell people that I’m interested in astronomy, I usually get two reactions:

1st reaction:  “so you can tell the future lah…”, “you can predict people’s behaviour lah…”, “so you are expert in the horoscope thing lah…”.  A lot of people still cannot differentiate between astroNOMY and astroLOGY.  Once upon a time, astronomy and astrology are the same thing, but not now anymore.

2nd reaction:  “so you see stars, you need telescope for that lor…”, “stars also good to see meh? All look the same one mah…”…

These are the perceptions of astronomy to a lot of people around us.

We don’t learn much about astronomy during our school days; in bits and pieces we learn about the Sun, the Moon, some stars and maybe some galaxies, but we do not know how all these things connected to each other and the universe seems so far out of reach.  People just can’t imagine what astronomy is.

So to most people, astronomy = see stars.

Astronomy is not just about “see stars”.  It’s a science; it’s a subject which studies everything beyond Earth; from objects in our Solar System, out to objects in our Galaxy, out to objects in other galaxies, out to the edge of the universe, to the first moment when our universe is born. 

When we look up at the night sky, we are trying to understand why we see stars and galaxies the way there are, trying to understand the laws which govern them, their nature, their dimensions, their characteristics and their influence they exert upon each other.  And deep in human’s mind, we seek to find the answer how we are here, how do the ingredients created in space ended up on Earth and that make life possible here.

Astronomy is not just about “see stars”.  When we say we are interested in astronomy, we are saying that we are interested in all the happening out in the universe, we hope we can understand how it works, interpret the findings from the experts or hopefully be able to give some contributions, keep ourselves up-to-date of the progress, and finally, we are just stunned by the beauty of the night sky.


Astronomy as a hobby…

We learn constellations by using our naked eye, at the same time learning how the Earth’s motion affect when and what constellations is visible in the night sky.

We know the Sun gives us heat and light, we try to understand how it works.  We observe the Sun, keeping track of its sunspots, and awe at its prominent. Finally, we learn how the Sun activities affect our lives on Earth.

We see the Moon has phases, and through observing, we realised that different parts of the Moon are illuminated at different phases.  Then we learn why there are Moon phases and how are calendars created based on them.

We observe other planets in the Solar System, and understand how the orbits of the planets affect their positions and sizes in the sky.

We look at the stars with the naked eyes and notice that they are not all of the same colour; so we look up the reference to know why is it so.

We enjoy the spectacular show of a meteor shower, and learned that meteor is actually just an atmospheric phenomenon, where the friction between the debris from space and our Earth’s atmosphere causes them to burn.

We see some stars are brighter than the others, and wonder why.  Then we realised that there are a few factors involved.

We see lunar and solar eclipse, and we are not afraid of them because we know that it is not any monster or creature eating our Moon or Sun.  They are just due to the geometry arrangement between the Sun, the Earth and the Moon.

We buy telescope so that we can expand our joy of stargazing.  So, we increase our knowledge on optics, mounts, and telescope operation.

We cruise the sky with our telescope on a clear, dark night, and we come across some blurry patches that do not look like stars, then we learn that apart from stars, there are also gas and dust in space.

We search for deep-sky object within and outside our Milky Way Galaxy, feeling proud of our ability to navigate the night sky, to know where and how to locate a celestial object in the sea of stars.

We see other galaxies through the telescope, and it’s so unbelievable that some of the light we see took millions of years to eventually reach our retina.

We are stunned by the beauty of the night sky, and wish to keep the moment as a remembrance.  So we take our camera and record it down.  We learn how to take astrophotograph.

We suddenly realised that we can actually see our own Milky Way Galaxy, but only from the inside.


These are just my personal experiences.  The more I learn, the more I love it.

I have met a lot of people in the past who tell me that they are interested in astronomy, but they just don’t know where to start because in Malaysia, the exposure to astronomy is so limited.

This is why I started this blog, not only to reach out to people who love astronomy, but hopefully also to the general public and hopefully again that I may be able to change the public perceptions and increase their understanding in astronomy.

And hopefully, in the future, when I say I love astronomy, people will know what I mean.


~ by thChieh on April 3, 2008.

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