My interest in astronomy started very early, as I was lucky enough to have parents who were interested in the subject and encouraged me to read and take an interest beyond our immediate surroundings. I find I look at many of life's problems in a different way when I consider that we are only tiny specks on a tiny planet in an ordinary galaxy in an extraordinary universe - sort of makes your worries seem insignificant, to say the least! The workings of our universe are incomprehensible to most of us, which makes it that much more wondrous and awesome, and we should all feel privileged to have our place in it.
The great Carl Sagan put it this way, describing an image of earth taken by a spacecraft:
"The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light."
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."
MAUNA KEA Trip Report
ECLIPSE '98 Trip Report
ECLIPSE '99 Trip Report
ECLIPSE 2006 Trip Report
Any view of our amazing universe should start with . Check it out, you'll find tons of links on their pages, including special sites whenever a shuttle mission is taking place, and of course those cool pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Visit JPL as well for links to the many unmanned missions presently underway or planned.
The Planetary Society is well worth a look, and Astronomy Magazine puts it all together in one place.
If you REALLY want to wrap your brain around some far-out stuff, this Cosmology site explains the formation of our universe, galaxies, stars etc. in easily understandable language. Some of this stuff will freak you out!
Lastly, if you don't have time to plow through all this stuff right now, get a quick daily "dose" of the heavens at the Astropicture of the Day site - something different and cool every day with explanations by astronomers.
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