It’s called stars. Quite pretty, so what?
I’ve barely started and here are two questions already:
What are they?
And what’s the point of asking, what’s so interesting about them?
Let’s look at a few bare facts to have something to begin with.
Fact: staring at stars is equally old as it is ancient
There must be something interesting about them since even the mythology attempted to explain, how were they created or what they are. Nobody knows when the repeating movements of stars were first described, because writing didn’t exist yet at the time. But the Egyptian pyramids aligned exactly (as far as possible) to the then North Star make one think. The Chinese paid special attention to the comets and new stars. The Babylonians assigned three stars to each month before 1100 B.C., which means they had them catalogued pretty well back then.
Fact: there are loads of fantastic stories about stars
The Greek explanations of the origin of the Milky Way and the long tail of Ursa Major are bizarre to say the least, and certainly not the only ones. Someone apparently couldn’t stand the mere fact that the constellations exist. So wonderful myths were made up. Well, their wonderfulness depends on how are they told:
‘Listen boys, this bunch of stars looks like half goat, half fish! Perhaps it’s a god Pan, the goaty (so ugly that when he was born his own mother fled in panic), he attached himself a tail of a fish and jumped into the sea, running away from a gigantic hundred-dragon-headed monster Typhon, master of hurricanes and father of most horrifying beasts!’
‘Dude, are you stoned?’
Conclusion: the stars are fascinating
Perhaps, like every undiscovered phenomenon? People used to fear the unknown, so myths and legends were invented to tame it. Stars are particularly harmless, but still got assigned magical powers. Did it change very much nowadays, anyway? Colourful magazines and websites ‘inform’ about the meaning of specific positions of stars. Hence, the horoscopes came about!
So what is staring at the stars for?
On every day – for a moment to admire the unknown, the eternal, the unreachable.
For an astrologist – to read human fate from stars’ positions.
For a navigator – to find the way at night, in an unknown area.
For a poet – to write beautiful texts and poems!
For the humanity – to feed an enormous curiosity of the world, which had become a drive of progress.
Speaking of curiosity…
Do you know why did the humanity get interested with the stars?
Because it sees them.
Isn’t that stupid?
Humanity happens to populate a planet with an atmosphere dense enough for us to breathe, but thin enough for things above to be visible. Not like on Venus, for instance, where there is a layer of clouds several kilometres thick, hovering 30-40 km above the ground. Completely opaque. So if our mother Earth had such a permanent coat…
…nobody would ever see stars.
So there would be entirely different reasons of reaching into the outer space: to see whatever is above the clouds! Nobody would dream about stars or any astronomy.
All right, but since we speak of it, what is astronomy for?
That’s, like Kipling used to say, another story.