Astronomy as I had known it consisted only of the Sun, Moon and stars.  But after I took the plunge of enrolling in an astronomy course here at SPS, my perception of what I thought I knew had drastically changed for the better.

I tend to be the sort of person that likes to play it safe.  Here’s what I mean:  I try to stick to what I know best so if I fail, it can be on a subject matter that I know vs. something I have no clue about.  That might sound silly but it’s the truth. Ordinarily, I would have preferred to enroll in Biology or Earth Science but since I’m a college student, I felt it better suited me to try something more challenging.  (I forced myself to enroll).

According to Wikipedia, astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, comets, nebulae, star clusters and galaxies) and phenomena that originate outside the Earth’s atmosphere (such as the cosmic background radiation). At least I was partially correct.  Before, I get all technical, the basics of astronomy began with early observations – some of which you might have heard of.  These great explorers are like Galileo who turned the newly invented telescope  with great discoveries, but Newton made tremendous strides in physics, which connects with astronomy.  Or how about Ptolemy, the astronomer, mathematician, and author who wrote an astronomical treatise (is a formal and systematic written discourse on some subject, generally longer and treating it in greater depth than an essay), on the complex subject on the motion of stars and planetary paths.  There was also a man named Copernicus who proposed the heliocentric system and Kepler adopted the detailed laws of planetary motion.  Not only have these men contributed to the history of astronomy, they have allowed us to see and  further discover what is above our Earth’s atmosphere.

Have you ever wondered why we have seasons?

Seasons as we know it, are a direct result of the Earth’s tilt!  You’re probably wondering what that means, right?  Well it means that Summer (from the Latin word “sol” meaning “sun” and stare, “to stand”) is the point on the ecliptic (plane of the earth’s orbit around the sun), where the Sun is at its northern most point above the celestial equator.  It represents the point in Earth’s orbit where our planet’s North Pole points closet to the Sun!  This occurs on or near June 21.

Six months later, the Sun is at its southernmost point or the Winter Solstice (December 21) the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere. These two affect the height of the Sun above the horizon and the length of the day – which combine to account for the seasons we experience.

One of the many stunning images available on the Hubble website.

This is truly fascinating!

Astronomers view any and all activity by high-powered ground telescopes and even the HST (Hubble Space Telescope).  The HST is very unique device since its stationed high above our Earth’s atmosphere.  It has produced thousands upon thousands of crystal clear images that the ground telescopes aren’t able to produce.  Images are passed to another satellite in space and finally beamed to a ground telescope and transferred to a computer at the Goddard Space Center in Maryland.

If you have a chance to log onto Hubble’s official website at: http://hubblesite.org, there are extraordinary images that could possibly bring you to tears.

According to the NY Post, an outdated research satellite will re-enter our atmosphere where it’s expected be destroyed. I can’t but help to have a new-found respect for this science and technology, which is ever-changing before our eyes.

What I’m learning from taking this course is that observations and new challenging can be exciting and even thrilling.  My decision to rise to the challenge is definitely paying off by this  new-found hobby I’ve acquired of becoming an elementary star-gazer.

Sources: Wikipedia.com, Astronomy Today, Volume II, chapter 4 & 5 (Chaisson, McMillian)

Miranda A. Walker is currently in her freshman year in the B.A. in Communication & Culture program at CUNY School of Professional Studies.  She works in the multi-media industry as an Executive Assistant at the New York Daily News.  In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her children and reading immensely.  Her dream is to one day run her own company.

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