I teach astronomy because…

This post was written by Jeremy Exelby. He grew up in Southern Africa where clear night skies stimulated an interest in astronomy that has remained with him ever since. Jeremy has worked in several countries in both hemispheres, and currently teaches close to the equator. He has made a number of optical and radio telescopes, and enjoys teaching people of all ages about astronomy.

I teach about astronomy because I believe it will help to make the world a better place.  Yes really!  This may seem to be a strange idea, but let me explain.

In studying the subject, I have learned about many weird and strange things – so it has certainly been interesting.  I have experienced the amazing beauty of clear night skies and through the legends of the stars come to understand a little about how ancient cultures lived and thought – so this has been educational and rewarding.  Tinkering with telescopes has been fun.  Understanding the progression of ideas and theories over time has been enlightening, and there is more – I could go on at length, but that is not my point.

My main point is that I believe the most valuable thing we learn from astronomy is a certain PERSPECTIVE.  Understanding about the scale of time and space is a mind-boggling revelation and when we use our imaginations to leave planet Earth and look back upon where we all live, it is truly amazing to see just how small and precious the place we all share really is.  So far, we have found nothing else like planet Earth.  We are also trapped here.  Whilst our minds can soar to the ends of the universe and to the beginnings of time – physically there seems to be no realistic way of leaving our present circumstances here and now on our home planet.

But then who would want to leave – we live in a beautiful place, right? You might only partially agree with this last statement, however, it is undeniable that the human species has now become so significant on planet Earth that we are altering the very place we live in.  Climate change is happening and it is now generally accepted that humans are the cause.  These changes are tipping us away from the delicate balance that has made our world a place where we can thrive to a place where life will become increasingly difficult.

There is nowhere else to go – we have to deal with what we have here.

We are faced with difficult choices now and in the future.  Having correct perspectives will help to make sure the decisions we make are positive and helpful ones, and that is why I think the study of astronomy can make our world a better place.

(Views expressed in OAD guest blogs may not necessarily represent the views of the OAD.)