Astronomy; Links to my Articles - My Astronomy Home Page

The galaxy NGC 4414
The galaxy NGC 4414 | Source

INTRODUCTION

This page is the home page to all of my astronomy articles published on the HubPages website. As well as including links to all my articles on astronomy and related subjects, the page also includes a brief description of the various aspects of astronomy which make this such a fascinating subject to study for both professionals and amateurs alike. I will also include a brief explanation of HubPages.

The Planet Saturn
The Planet Saturn | Source

THE SCOPE OF THE SCIENCE OF ASTRONOMY

Think about all that exists. There is of course, all that lays under our feet, in the ground, deeper down to the iron core at the centre of Planet Earth, just 6300 kilometres down. This is mainly the realm of the science of geology, and also physics and chemistry. Then there is all that exists at the surface, that ultra thin layer of the biosphere between the ocean bed and the tops of the mountains, and the atmosphere - a narrow band of gaseous mixes which envelops the biosphere - all a mere 100 kilometres from bottom to top. This region is the realm of many sciences including geology, physics and chemistry, and also geography and of course of the great life science of biology.

And above that, not for hundreds or thousands of kilometres, but for billions and billions and billions of kilometres - indeed for all the rest of the universe - that is the realm of the science of astronomy. Astronomy incorporates everything that exists above us and around us in space. Astronomy embraces the study of how physics and chemistry combine to make the matter of the universe. Astronomy and the study of astronomical bodies reveals to us what made the Earth we live on and what created the chemical elements of which everything - including human life itself - is composed.


Maat Mons, the highest volcano on Venus
Maat Mons, the highest volcano on Venus | Source
The Milky Way - a source of wonder to the people of the ancient world
The Milky Way - a source of wonder to the people of the ancient world | Source

THE OLDEST OF ALL THE SCIENCES

Ever since a stone age man first looked up at the dark night sky and wondered about the points of light shining down on him, the science of astronomy has existed. For many millenia mankind had no tools to investigate these points of light, and how frustrating it must have been for those with enquiring minds to wonder why some sparkling lights were bright and some were dim, and why some were steady and seemingly never changing while others brightened and faded and maybe disappeared never to be seen again. And why should the vast majority of these pinpoints seem reliably fixed in patterns of light, whilst a deviant few chose to wander their way aimlessly round the sky over a period of months and years?

The enquiring minds would speculate on such things without a hope of knowing the truth, and this absence of knowledge only added to the fascination and introduced myths and legends and religions into our culture to try to explain them.

Today there is more knowledge and more tools with which to explore the night sky, yet so much remains unknown or unproven. We do know that the Heavenly bodies are not supernatural deities but objects just like our Earth which obey the Laws of Physics - but as we still have a very far from complete understanding of those Laws, the mystery remains. The frustration also remains. Most of the night sky objects are removed by such vast distances from us as to be as physically inaccessible today as they were to the ancients.


The Hubble Telescope has enabled us to see far into the distant universe
The Hubble Telescope has enabled us to see far into the distant universe | Source

ABOUT MY ASTRONOMY

Although I have a science background, my studies were not in the fieId of astronomy. I emphasise therefore I am an amateur enthusiast. Nonetheless astronomy is one field in which the amateur can still make a contribution, and everyone with a little knowledge can still hold valid views, because so much of space and our understanding of it is uncharted territory and open to speculation, even in the 21st century. Where facts are known, I hope I have presented them accurately in my articles in accordance with current knowledge. If any errors do occur please inform me, so they can be corrected.

The gas giant planet Neptune rises above the horizon of its moon Triton
The gas giant planet Neptune rises above the horizon of its moon Triton | Source

THE SOLAR SYSTEM

The Solar System is perhaps where astronomy is at its most clear and accessible, in the sense that anyone can study the planets and moons and comets and understand something of their geology and geography, climate and history, without having acquired a PhD in cosmology and a Nobel Prize in Quantum Physics.

The Solar System is where everyone with just a modicum of scientific understanding can get to grips with astronomy, and with a willingness to study can become as knowledgeable as any expert about our nearest neighbours in space. It is also the area of astronomy where new and true facts - not undemonstrable theories or vague ideas - are uncovered with each and every mission to the bodies which orbit our Sun. Every year that passes, a new telescope, a new space probe, or a planetary landing craft reveals something amazing and unexpected.


Comet Hale-Bopp
Comet Hale-Bopp | Source
The Crab Nebula - Death of an exploding star
The Crab Nebula - Death of an exploding star | Source

THE GALAXY AND THE UNIVERSE

Beyond the Solar System is to be found everything else, the Milky Way Galaxy, and beyond that the vastness of the Universe, and the most bizarre of Heavenly bodies. Here things start getting a little more complicated, and we enter the realms of cosmology and particle physics. There is no easy way to understand the mathematics and the physics which lay behind black holes and neutron stars, dark matter, and the seemingly outlandish concepts of wormholes, relativity and multiple dimensions.

Out there lies an absolute minefield of unexplained phenomena; observations and data which cosmologists may theorise about without incontrovertable proof of the reality. Speculations about distant objects and hypotheses about strange particles and how these particles may act under extreme physical conditions are drawn up, and nobody really knows whether they are even approaching the concepts from the right direction or whether they are being led down false trails.

I cannot say any more because my own knowledge is too limited, but my suspicion is that much of modern theory will ultimately prove to be detached from the truth of the matter, because much of modern theory reflects merely the best working model to explain known phenomena, rather than proven fact. If that suspicion is correct, then it may be young aspiring physicists today who prove it to be so. Astronomy is described as the oldest of the sciences, yet with its related disciplines it remains the science with the furthest to go.


A star forming region in the Orion Nebula
A star forming region in the Orion Nebula | Source
Europa, a moon of Jupiter, believed by many to have oceans of liquid water beneath its icy surface - a possible habitat for life in space
Europa, a moon of Jupiter, believed by many to have oceans of liquid water beneath its icy surface - a possible habitat for life in space | Source

LIFE IN SPACE

Are we alone? Perhaps the ultimate question. Everyone has their views and I have mine. I believe there is almost certainly plenty of life out there of a microbial form, and possibly even some within our own Solar System, on Mars, or Europa or Enceladus, or somewhere else. There may well be macrobiological life - multicellular organisms - too, at least on planets around other stars in the Galaxy. But intelligent life? Like us? I personally believe quite strongly that we are alone in our Galaxy, though not in the universe as a whole. My reasons are rather too involved to go into here, but I think they are based in sound logic (others may feel differently) and they will in due course form the basis of a series of articles on these pages.

Whatever the truth of this, the possibility of life out there in space is something which fascinates all of us, filling some with dread and some with excitement and anticipation. The question of life, like so many questions of astronomy, is one of the great mysteries which humans have a drive to explore. One day we will no doubt have a clearer idea of these matters, and maybe a definitive answer. If there is life out there, I wish I could be alive when it is discovered.


The surface of Mars imaged by the Mars Pathfinder landing craft. Mars once had conditions which may have been suitable for life and the hunt is on for evidence of this
The surface of Mars imaged by the Mars Pathfinder landing craft. Mars once had conditions which may have been suitable for life and the hunt is on for evidence of this | Source
The Spaceman - a modern day phenomenon
The Spaceman - a modern day phenomenon | Source
Neil Armstrong - a man whose name will live on for as long as human beings exist
Neil Armstrong - a man whose name will live on for as long as human beings exist | Source

MAN AND SPACE

All human beings alive today - and especially those in their 60s and 70s - should feel remarkably privileged. We are all fortunate to have been born into the most remarkable period of human advancement in the history of mankind ever in the past, and possibly ever into the future. That may seem like a bold statement, but I think I can back it up, using just the space programme as an example.

'Humans' as an animal group have existed for more than a million years. Human beings in our current form have existed for more than 100,000 years. Given that many species of animal survive environmental change on Earth without really significant evolutionary change for many many millions of years, and that mankind now has increasing levels of control over our environment, there is no reason (in theory) why our species should not survive for millions of years into the future. Yes, of course, there are numerous obstacles in our way and many believe we will soon wipe ourselves out through our own stupidity, but if we take care of the environment and restrain our social and technological developments to levels with which we are mentally able to cope, there is no evolutionary or environmental reason why we cannot survive far into the future.

But no matter how far into the future we continue - whether it be a thousand, a hundred thousand, or ten million years - as long as we humans maintain an intact record of our history, we will always look back on this period as perhaps our most exciting. The reason? Records are made to be broken, but 'firsts' are records which can never be broken. Whatever we do in the far distant future, even if we one day establish colonies 'Star Trek' style on remote worlds, people will always think back with envy on the generations of people alive today who will always have been the first to witness space flight, the first to send a man into space, the first to land a man on an alien body, the first to send probes to investigate other planets, the first to discover extrasolar planets - I could go on, but you get the point? This is the time that the most ground-breaking discoveries and explorations of space have been made. It will always be thus.


The Saturn V rocket which carried man to the Moon
The Saturn V rocket which carried man to the Moon | Source

ABOUT HUBPAGES

HubPages is a website on which all Internet users can publish articles with ease and without the need for any specialist skills. Templates are provided to enable text, illustrations, maps, links and other elements of a webpage to be compiled and organised and published. This is the site which has been used for my astronomy articles.

IN SUMMARY

I hope and trust I have made clear how astronomy is the science which should appeal to us all - the science which has been with us from our distant past and will always be with us for as long as Homo sapiens has an enquiring mind. I hope and trust everyone can appreciate the ground breaking discoveries in astronomy, and the dreams and fantasies which astronomy inspires for the future. Just as our primitive ancestors may have looked out across the oceans and speculated on how their descendents may one day travel beyond the horizon, so astronomy allows us to see into the great depths of space where our descendants may one day also travel.

In my pages I hope to reveal a little more of the fascination of astronomy, and some of the unimaginable facts and figures relating to the universe above our heads. I hope if you glance at some of these pages, you will enjoy the experience, and I hope that if you come to the pages fresh without knowledge, then I can help instill a wonderment of the science of astronomy.


M81 a galaxy 12 million light years distant in the constellation of Ursa Major. As mankind explores the Solar System, a whole universe awaits
M81 a galaxy 12 million light years distant in the constellation of Ursa Major. As mankind explores the Solar System, a whole universe awaits | Source

More by this Author


I'D LOVE TO HEAR YOUR COMMENTS. THANKS, ALUN 12 comments

Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 22 months ago from California

Unfortunately, the sky is the Sacramento Valley is quite light-polluted. For SVAS star parties, we go to Blue Canyon (one mile in elevation), which is better but still not very good - that's another hour away from Sacto. Later!


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 22 months ago from Essex, UK Author

Kosmo; Thanks Kelley. I guess astronomy hubs will never attract the masses in the way that - for example - 'popular culture' does! Though why, I can't imagine - there's no more fascinating subject to study, and almost every statistic about astronomical bodies is quite mind-blowing.

I trust you have good views of the heavens in the Sacramento Valley?


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 22 months ago from California

Hey, I also write hubs about astronomy. I just recently wrote one about dwarf planets; unfortunately, it's kind of a flop, popularity-wise. Anyway, I also belong to SVAS, Sacramento Valley Astronomical Society. Happy stargazing! Also, you do a very thorough job on your hubs - you even provide photo attribution. Wow! Later!


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 23 months ago from Essex, UK Author

CatherineGiordano; Thanks very much for reading this home page to my astronomy articles Catherine. It's been a long time since I've published an astronomy hub, and I really must get back to the subject. The reason for the delay? I'd written pages about Mercury and Venus, and Earth was the next planet out from the Sun. So I wanted next to write a page about Earth in its astronomical context including what makes it so special as a home for life. But as you can imagine, that's an enormously complex subject with huge amounts of information to wade through. So it's been put on the back burner for a while. Your comment inspires me to get back to writing it! Cheers, Alun


CatherineGiordano profile image

CatherineGiordano 23 months ago from Orlando Florida

I have always been fascinated by astronomy and you do a fantastic job of explaining. I too believe that intelligent life is a very rare and precious thing in the cosmos. I'm going to have to find a couple of hours to read through your astronomy hubs one by one, like chapters in a book.


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 3 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Hi credence; thanks for visiting and commenting. Venus is indeed a fascinating planet. For one of my hubs on the geology and climatology of Venus, I researched the sequences of events which turned a potentially benign planet into a nightmare world. The events are extremely complex, and the difficulties of figuring out cause and effect are very evident - I hope in these circumstances my explanations are comprehensibly written! But it's so interesting as you suggest, to see how such a fine dividing line can exist between a habitable world like Earth, and planets like Venus and Mars.

I absolutely agree with all your comments about mankind and space travel including the point about the humans in 'Star Trek'. One of the reasons for the popularity of that series is that human society is so much more civilised and optimistic in its values (even though as a drama series, the human race seems constantly in danger of getting wiped out!)

I will certainly check out your page in due course, and possibly the links from it. Alun.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 3 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

Hi, Alun

I am addicted to astronomy and even more so, space travel.As for celestial bodies within our solar system, I am most intrigued by the planet Venus,which in my opinion is the most ferocious of the planetary bodies. I have taken interest in the moon of Saturn, Titan, with its dense atmosphere and possible seas of methane/ammonia.

While visit and colonization of Mars are within the realm of current technology, Venus, our sister planet will have to wait considerably longer. What an interesting contrast, Mars, practically a vacuum, while Venus is pressure cooker. It is fascinating to see such differences from the earth in the worlds that are near to us. All the more reason that we should cherish it as the jewel of the Solar System that it is.

I will read your specific articles about the planets and comment when appropriate.

I watched with great interest as Neil Armstrong stepped upon the moon's surface. I watched the film 2001 a space odyssey in 1968, and as a baby boomer remain disappointed that what I visioned as my future did not come to fruition.

We, as a species could do so much better.I hope that we could survive as a species to see intergalactic travel, molecular replicators and the like. But we are not ready for we are still in our infancy as a species. In Star Trek, it is not just the technology, but man who has evolved from his current avericious nature.

Disappointed as NASA no longer has a primary launch vehicle since the retirement of the shuttle, this is a travesty as this is one of the few enobling aspects of human nature curiosity and the desire to explore, could it be that in the first time in human history we find a new frontier from which we now shirk because of the lack of money and national will. If we could spend a small fraction of the bloated defense budget on getting back on track in regards to space exploration we would go far.

Not to plug, but in an article that I wrote about profiles of the future, there is a link where technologists took a stab at what we could expect in the scientific development over the next few centuries. It is far reaching, but you can just as easily peer into the near future, a decade or two.

http://hubpages.com/technology/The-Twenties-II-202...

Great writing, thanks Cred2


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

Alun,

Wow, you could have written a hub from that reply! I like to speculate too. I find it interesting to come up with ideas that may be overlooked with standard thinking. I can see that you and I think alike.

Even though I go along with your explanation entirely, about an intelligent spices from hundreds or thousands of millions of years ago visiting the Earth, I can think of a reason why they seem to be non-existent.

The Earth was very different then. The latest Dinosaurs were extinguished as recent as 60 million years ago. And an older species of dinosaurs disappeared some 250 million years ago.

The intelligent life from elsewhere may have also been extinguished with no trace. They may be so different on a cellular level, or on a chemical level, that we would not even recognize them if they were here with us right now. Not to mention the inability to recognize (or even detect) remains of their existence.

On the other hand, they may have come here. And they may be living here right now, with an established colony on an electron revolving around a nucleus of an atom of one of the objects in our world.

This is all pure speculation. But I enjoy imagining these options.

Glenn


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 3 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Glenn; my thanks and appreciation. My reasons for believing that as far as intelligent life is concerned we are alone, is largely related, as with you, to the great age of the Galaxy.

First, of course we must say that we only have one model of an intelligent species to work with - ourselves - when it comes to assessing how another intelligence would behave, so we must make assumptions based upon our own species. However, I do think it reasonable to believe that intelligence and curiosity go hand in hand, and that pace of technological progress would probably increase in another species in a similar way in which it has in ours. In the case of our species, I think that if we continue to survive on Earth we will undoubtably go to the stars, however long it takes (because that is the nature of our curiosity and desire to explore) and one day establish colonies on other planets, from which we will branch out further. I believe that as a conservative estimate within 10 million years we would probably have visited everywhere worth visiting in the Galaxy. And if we discover any other conscious sentient beings physically or by remote radio or other contact, then we will attempt to communicate with them.

Now if we assume that other intelligent species would do likewise, then this is where the age of the Galaxy comes into the equation. 10 million years is just a tiny moment when set against the great age of the galaxy. The human species is only just starting out on space exploration. If intelligence is at all common place in the Galaxy then it is reasonable to suppose that some other civilisations will have emerged on other planets around other stars tens of millions - even hundreds or thousands of millions of years before we did. If that is the case, and if they behaved at all like I think we would behave, then they would by now have travelled to Earth or made contact. But I do not believe they have come here or made contact, and I think that that can only be because no such older intelligences exist. If they ever did exist, I believe they must have become extinct - perhaps wiped themselves out before they could spread beyond the confines of their own planet. But more probably, we are the first intelligence in our Galaxy.

I know I am making assumptions about the behaviour of intelligent species, but assumptions are inevitable giving the lack of information about how intelligent technologically advanced species behave.

It's a great fascinating subject for speculation Glenn, and I know others have put forward all sorts of reasons why other intelligent species may not yet have spoken to us or established colonies in our Solar System. However, the great age of the Galaxy and the belief that other civilisations older than ourselves should by now have visited Earth is essentially the basis of my belief that we are alone in the Galaxy. Hopefully I can expand on that in the near future in an article on HubPages. Alun.


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

I find the way you write to be very interesting. One thing in particular that you mentioned was your feelings about other intelligent life in our galaxy. I have to agree with you that we may very well be alone here in the Milky Way. And I wonder if your reasons are the same as mine.

The way I look at it has to do with the extensive span of time. What are the chances that intelligent life, similar to ours, exists in our galaxy at the same time as we do? When you consider the infinity of the timeline from the past to the future, it is understandable that if life does exist somewhere else, it most likely falls somewhere else on that timeline. So we will never discover it in the time that we exist.

Now, when we stretch out to the entire universe, the chances increase. But the distance presents a problem, making it impossible to discover other forms of intelligent life beyond our galaxy in the time that we exist.


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 4 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Derdriu, I honestly can't remember exactly.

The first I would have studied in some depth would have been that most obvious of objects, the Moon, learning the names and facts about the various craters and trying to visualise the mountain ranges.

The first that I can remember searching for and finding with binoculars, would have been the Andromeda Galaxy - it was great to see that little smudge of light and to realise the unbelievable enormity and distance of what I was looking at!

The first clearly visible objects which blew my mind would have been Rigel and Betelgeuse in Orion. It is incredible to to look at a star and to know it is so much vastly brighter or bigger than our Sun.

Thanks so much for contributing the first comment on this page. Alun.


Derdriu 4 years ago

Alun, What is the first night-sky object which you remember seeing?

Up + UFABI.

Respectfully, and with many thanks for sharing, Derdriu

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