'A’ for Astronomy
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'A’ for Astronomy

Astronomy is the most astounding of Physical Sciences; it’s arresting

International Astronomy Day is celebrated twice every year, each in the season of spring and autumn. This year, it has been chosen to be observed today on April 29 for spring session and on September 22 for autumn session. The day dates back to 1973, when it was observed for the first time by Doug Berger, the then president of the Astronomical Association of Northern California, with an aim to popularise Astronomy among the general public. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Astronomy is the most astounding of Physical Sciences. Astronomy is arresting.

As we lift the eyes to see the sky stretching out without support and holding the stars without an adhesive, we are filled with awe. Nothing in the celestial sphere is lined up, neither equidistant from each other, yet everything is in a proper order and orbit. The limitless expanse of cosmos is in perfect peace and great calm, holding the whole baggage of big bang such as the black holes, the white dwarfs, the hot plasma, the cold dark matter, the dust and the gases, yet it is vastly empty and without any jumbling. We live in a wonder world. It is not ordinary in any way.

In the childhood, we would watch the cartoon about an Alice in Wonderland. Today we know that all of us and not just Alice lives in a wonderland. Astronomy helps us in appreciating and acknowledging the meticulous design of Universe. Astronomy is the study of everything beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Every earthly event has a celestial connection. Take for instance the Eid that we celebrated recently. It could not have been without a crescent. Astronomy enables us to have a close telescopic view of all tangible and intangible out there in cosmos which is otherwise inaccessible or remotely accessible. Seeking answers by thinking and sinking, rather than performing hit and trial is a preferred way of doing science of astronomy.

The scientific belief is that whatever is true in principle should be found somewhere in practice. In other words, truth should always manifest itself no matter, where. As long as we are logically consistent, we can keep unfolding the unseen. In the Physicist fraternity, those who especially pursue Astrophysics are considered to be the smartest. Stephen Hawkings, a legendary, who left behind a huge legacy in cosmology, had said very explicitly, ‘I am an Astrophysicist.’

Moreover, scientific advancement has reached a stage that every research outcome need not necessarily have an application in industry or bear us instruments and gadgetry. Science has a different luxury. A rather bigger motivation nowadays, lies in the call of conscience asking multitude of questions such as the fate of Universe, how it had started and how it will end and even if it had started at all or had it always existed and will it always exist. Our conscience alone can guide us in certain matters which are beyond our scope of direct observation. However, the thought process should be driven by clarity of ideas, which may be novel but not notional. Being inconclusive is better than being illusive. As for instance, when I was born, the sun and the moon were at a particular point in their routine path. To say that I was born and everything in life happened to me because of the particular position of stars and planets is (a) absurd, (b) bizarre and (c) cranky. This pseudo-science has somehow gained vast popularity among the common people and is known as astrology. It runs anti-parallel to astronomy. While-as astrology is ugly and unruly, astronomy is fair and futuristic.

One can also take help from cosmic scriptures to resolve the conflict and choose between the two. There are more than one thousand (1160) verses in the Holy Quran speaking about Astronomy, Cosmology and natural sciences while as astrology has been strongly denounced in dozens of verses. Similarly, the book of Genesis talks extensively about astronomy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church maintains that astrology is incompatible with modern Catholic beliefs such as free will. All forms of divination are rejected as recourse to Satan or demons, falsely supposed to unveil the future. Astrology has entered in some degree in jyoti-shastras only. However, the Hinduism draws its highest authority from Vedas and Upanishads which have extensive content for astronomy only.

Therefore, let us cherish astronomy today. Let us keep watching the glamorous gravitational show of celestial celebrities like comets, meteors and stars. These have lived through the ages of the Universe and are significant for hope and scope of research and resurge. It is through astronomical observations that we get to know whether a massive celestial body is advancing towards us or distancing from us and whether something may hit us or may miss us. Nonetheless we should keep our hopes high that we will miss the tragic and hit the target, Insha Allah.

Dr. Qudsia Gani, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Physics, Govt. College for Women, Srinagar

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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