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Skyline News Detail

Why are we so fascinated by the stars?

Posted on Monday, 14 December 2015

Everyone knows about the stars; those wonder-grabbing twinkling objects that sit above us and monitor our earthly existence. We all enjoy stargazing and most of us are born with an innate curiosity that nudges those short but huge questions like ‘why?’ and ‘how?’

We yearn to know more.

For some of us, stargazing goes hand-in-hand with romance; for some of us we relish the wisdom that was passed down from our cherished ancestors; and then some others devote their entire lives to the subject of astronomy.  So why are we all so fascinated by it?

Here is a short history of the major events that got us to our current level of understanding of all things astronomical:

 

10,000+ BC: The sky was the home of the Gods.  Stars were used to predict the cycle of the seasons for agricultural purposes, and measuring time and direction.

600 to 130 BC: Greeks developed astronomy into a theoretical science lead by pioneers including Pythagoras, Thales, Plato and Aristotle.

280 BC: Greek astronomer Aristrachus of Samos suggests a heliocentric theory of the universe, whereby it was the Earth and planets which revolved around a stationary Sun. However, it was another 1800 years before this theory would be accepted.

1605 A.D: Johannes Kepler discovered that the planets orbit about the sun in an elliptical orbit.

             1608 A.D: Hans Lippershey invents a refractor telescope.

1609 A.D: Galileo used the telescope to view Jupiter’s rotating moon system, and noting there were obviously objects in the heavens which didn’t revolve around the Earth.

1668 A.D: Sir Isaac Newton invented the first reflecting telescope.  He also establishes the law of universal gravitation.

             1905 A.D: Albert Einstein introduces the Theory of Relativity.

1923 A.D: Edwin Hubble proves that galaxies are separate systems outside of our own Milky Way and that the Universe was expanding.

1957 A.D: Russian Sputnik 1 satellite becomes the first man-made object to orbit the Earth marking the beginning of the space age.

1969 A.D: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission.

             1990 A.D: The Hubble Space Telescope is put into orbit.

1992 A.D: The discovery of exoplanets. Since then hundreds of planets outside of our solar system have been confirmed.
 


We certainly have come a long way from believing the earth was the centre of the universe and that everything revolved around our little planet.  We now have a fairly decent understanding of the composition of our universe and we all attempt to get our heads around the fact that we are currently travelling through space at about 530km/sec within our ever-expanding universe. 

There are lots of reasons why we wonder so much about the mysterious world lingering above us that we cannot touch.  One key reason for this fixation could be that we are in-fact made of the very same stuff that stars are made from.  We are related to the stars.  Every atom in our bodies originated from the heart of a star.  The carbon in our teeth and bones; the nitrogen in our DNA; the oxygen in water that makes up 60% of our bodies; the iron in our blood, and the rest.  None of those elements were created during the Big Bang.  Those elements were all created in the nuclear furnaces of stars.  Those stars exploded to make way for evolution and as a result we can exist.  This reason alone is a pretty articulate explanation for our inherent fascination with the stars; our twinkling family.

If you are interested to find out more about our universe then why not join Skyline Queenstown’s Stargazing tour.  New Zealand’s South Island is named one of the best spots in the world to experience the wonders of the night sky.  Sitting close to the South Pole gives Queenstown’s stargazers a unique vantage point to spy on the mysteries veiled above us in the true darkness of New Zealand’s night.

Stargazing tours run daily and kick off after sunset.  Visit our website to join Skyline Queenstown’s Stargazing tour.

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