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Astronomy; Links to my Articles - My Astronomy Home Page

Updated on October 21, 2012
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The author's aim is to popularise the science of astronomy in a series of relaxed, easy to read, and easy to undestand articles

The galaxy NGC 4414
The galaxy NGC 4414 | Source


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


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


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


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 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


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


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


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


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.


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

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