Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A few thoughts on amateur astronomy

Long ago the Greeks called him Zeus – named after the God of the Gods, the king of kings and the master of all. I am talking about Jupiter – the largest planet of our solar system. Jupiter was one the first objects I saw with my telescope. And I have to say that the first experience was profound. I had looked at Saturn before, and its just obviously so pretty, you can see the rings and Titan. But Jupiter is a whole different story altogether.

It is spectacular, uniquely beautiful, awe-inspiring and overwhelmingly majestic. One look and you can tell – this is the king of all planets. When looking through the telescope, you can tell – despite the great distance – that it is a giant planet.

It has shielded us from asteroids and other hazards by attracting them towards him with his massive gravity. Jupiter happens to be just the right size for Earth to sustain its nature, if it were any bigger, its core would have triggered a nuclear fusion making it into another star. Most of our probes to the outer planets and outside of the solar system use Jupiter’s gravitational pull as a sling shot. So, by all standards, we owe a lot to Jupiter – and seeing him through the telescope demands a certain reverence. I guess the Greeks weren’t all that wrong after all!

Alongside Jupiter, I observed its four galilean moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Castillo! About four hundred years ago Galileo made the same observation and it changed the world. It is humbling to know that even four centuries ago, there was a scientist so true to his observations, that he risked the wrath of the Roman Church and along with it complete ostracism from society for scientific integrity. Galileo pointed his telescope toward Zeus and saw the four moons revolving around Jupiter! This clearly and observably refuted the notion that the universe revolved around Earth!

Later he sat in a cathedral and deduced from the chandeliers that the period of oscillation was independent of the size of the arc. Then, he refuted another common theory and suggested that heavier and lighter objects hit the earth at the same time. Which took some guts considering that the theory he was refuting was of Aristotle’s!

It is indeed exhilarating to make the same observations as this great father of astronomy. And it reminds us that each time we think we are sure of how the world works – how the universe is structured, we should know that it could all change with one observation! It helps mankind retain perspective when immersed and absorbed in our circles, we begin to think of ourselves beyond nature and above GOD.

A lot of people debate the existence of GOD - of intelligent creation. And many more still wonder if science can prove/disprove the existence of God. I think all of these deliberations are irrelevant. And you only need to take a decent enough telescope to a dark site to understand this.

How you define God is up to each individual. But the existence of God cannot be questioned.  Take  a telescope and go to a dark site – look at a distant galaxy, or a star forming nebula, look at Jupiter or its four moons and let yourself truly absorb it. Understand the distances involved, understand the physics involved, understand the science of each photon and you will see that for an arrangement of objects  so beautiful – there has to be a higher governing power.

So take it from me. Don’t care about what the religious books say or what Stephen Hawkins is typing out – the heavens through a lens will give you a more visceral and indelible spiritual experience than a temple ever will! And in that moment you will realize the Science and Religion to converge and mean the same thing – and any discrepancy between the two will disappear.

Welcome to Astronomy my friends! I assure you – IT WILL CHANGE YOUR WORLD!!

- Sanket


Bookmark and Share